The Red Sox' ire at the attention that was given to Justin Verlander before Game 3 -- and the lack of attention given to John Lackey -- was apparently a rallying point in the Boston clubhouse before the game. "[It was almost] like we didn’t have a starter going today," said Jake Peavy, referring to the focus on Verlander.
After Game 3, it'll be the exact opposite. No one will be mentioning Verlander. But you know what? He wasn't bad.
Eight innings, four hits, one run, one walk, 10 strikeouts . . . Yeah. He wasn't bad.
It's just that on this night, thanks to Lackey and a trio (Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara) of Red Sox relievers, it wasn't enough. Verlander made only one misstep, allowing a home run to Mike Napoli in the seventh inning, but it was enough to sink him as the Sox posted a 1-0 victory.
"He was obviously locked in," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Verlander. "He had that look."
"He was very good," agreed Sox manager John Farrell. "He was outstanding."
Good enough, in fact, to tie an MLB record for consecutive strikeouts when he fanned six straight hitters in the second and third inning: Napoli, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jonny Gomes in the second, and Stephen Drew, Will Middlebrooks and Jacoby Ellsbury in the third.
Napoli, though, had the last laugh, depositing a Verlander delivery over the fence in left-center field for the game's only run.
"I made a little bit of a mistake," Verlander said. "It was a little bit up and over the middle. You have to give him credit."
And that, thanks to Lackey and the bullpen, was that.
"To give my team a chance to win, I would have had to throw up all zeros," Verlander said. "I wasn't able to do that. "
Still, it was yet another dramatic night in this increasingly dramatic ALCS, capped by the back-to-back strikeouts of Detroit's two best hitters, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, by Tazawa and Uehara with the go-ahead runs on base in the eighth inning. It was the third straight one-run game -- and the second 1-0 game -- of the series, and, despite being on the wrong end of the score, Verlander hopes people appreciate what they're watching.
"If you can't appreciate this," he said, "you can't appreciate baseball."