Boston Red Sox

McAdam on the ALCS: Martinez, Tigers still alive

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McAdam on the ALCS: Martinez, Tigers still alive

DETROIT -- Ahead in the American League Championship Series three games to one, with an opportunity to win the pennant and advance to the World Series?

Yes, Victor Martinez has been there.

Now, he's on the other side, playing from behind, trying to buy himself and the Detroit Tigers one more game.

He would rather be ahead, of course, rather be the team just a win away from the pennant instead of the one fighting off elimination.

But you don't get to choose. Martinez and his Tigers still have to win the next two games. Otherwise, Thursday's valiant 7-5 victory over the Texas Rangers will be cold comfort.

And experience has taught Martinez that leading 3-to-1 isn't any sort of guarantee.

Or have you forgotten the 2007 ALCS.

Martinez, then with the Cleveland Indians, led the Red Sox 3-to-1 with Game 5 at (then) Jacobs Field. But Josh Beckett pitched what was perhaps the best post-season game ever and the Red Sox went home to finish off the comeback in seven games.

In 2011, it's role reversal.

"This is the fun part of it," said Martinez. "We're just going to go out there, play hard and see what happens. We've got nothing to lose. We're just taking it day-by-day, game-by-game.

"I was on the other side in '07. We were up 3-1 and just one win away from the World Series and everything escaped. So, anything is possible at this point. Anything is possible."

It was hard to think otherwise, given how Game 5 played out Thursday for the Tigers.

The first omen came in the sixth with the game tied at 2-2. Ryan Raburn was on first when Miguel Cabrera smoked a ball down the third base line.

Adrian Beltre was positioned behind the bag, hopeful of a double play, but the ball struck the third base bag and shot over Beltre's head as Raburn scored all the way from first.

Then, with Cabrera on second, Martinez pulled a ball into the right field corner which right fielder Nelson Cruz laid out for, only to have the ball snake behind him as Martinez got himself a triple.

Martinez was asked if he entertained any thoughts of an inside-the-park homer.

"Never!" said Martinez with mock alarm. "To hit one inside-the-park, Nelson Cruz would have to have a heart attack."

Martinez snorted with laughter over his own self-deprecating remark.

Then, there was manager Jim Leyland sticking to his pre-game promise that relievers Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde would not be used in relief because of their recent workloads.

Instead, Leyland announced that Phil Coke would be his choice to close out the game. He remained steadfast even as the Rangers scored a run in the ninth and put the go-ahead run on base.

"People may not like (the fact that he kept Benoit and Valverde out)," said Leyland, "but it was not a tough decision. You know why? In my heart, it was the right decision. No question about it. No-brainer for me."

Coke hung on, the Tigers earned themselves at least one more game and Martinez got to play the role of sage.

His hard-won wisdom from 2007 had already been shared with Tigers teammates. He's let the younger ones know that these opportunities don't come along often and, when the Tigers got pushed to the brink, he reminded everyone of how the other team needs four wins -- not just three.

"Never take anything for granted . . . never," said Martinez. "Never. You never take anything for granted in this game. When you have the chance to finish off somebody, you better finish them off. I learned that from experience. We just keep playing, keep swinging and see what happens."

Martinez knows from experience what can happen when a team thought to be out gets a win and builds some momentum.

Limited by injuries, playing through pain and still behind, the Tigers are guaranteed nothing. But the fact that they are still going says a great deal about them.

Everything from this point forward is a bonus.

"If you see the injuries and everything around the way these guys are playing, how can you not be satisfied?'' asked Leyland. "Would I rather be up 3-to-2? Yes. But I have no problems no matter how this turns out. We're going to keep playing. And that's good."

It certainly beats the alternative.

Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

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Drellich: In appreciation of a peculiar, throwback Red Sox offense

BALTIMORE — On the night Major League Baseball saw its record for home runs in a season broken, the team with the fewest homers in the American League took a scoreless tie into extra innings.

In the 11th, the Red Sox won in a fashion they hadn’t in 100 years.

Just how peculiar was their 1-0 win over the Orioles, the AL leaders in homers? The lone run came when Jackie Bradley Jr. bolted home on a wild pitch from Brad Brach. So? So, the Red Sox won, but did not officially record a run batted in on the day MLB’s greatest league-wide power show to date was celebrated.

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The last time the Sox won an extra-inning game without recording an RBI was a century ago, in 1918. Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth played in that game. 

It’s a weird time for the Sox offense. A weird year, really. Because the Sox are in first place, and have been, but they don’t drive the ball. Their .408 slugging percentage was the fifth lowest in the majors entering Tuesday.

They’re also in the bottom third for strikeouts, the top five in steals and the top 10 in batting average (.260). That's the description of an effective National League offense. An old-school, move-the-line group that makes more contact than all but four teams in the majors. 

The rest of baseball is switching to golf swings to pound low-ball pitching. The Sox look like they could be on a black-and-white newsreel shuffling around the bags.

Should you have faith in that method come the playoffs? There's reason to be dubious.

But the construction should be appreciated for the sake of disparity, both in the context of recent Red Sox history and the sport’s home-run renaissance.

Alex Gordon of the Royals hit the season’s 5,964th home run Tuesday, besting the record mark set in 2000 — dead in the middle of the steroid era.

At present, the Sox lineup is particularly out of sorts because of injuries. Dustin Pedroia should be back Wednesday, but was out of the starting lineup Tuesday. Hanley Ramirez isn’t starting either. Eduardo Nunez’s rehab from a knee injury is coming along, but may not move quite as quickly as expected.

Even if all are healthy, this group remains strange. Because the Sox offense looks so different than what people expect of the Sox, the opposite of what people expect of an American League East-winning team. The opposite of what people expect of any American League team, period.

The arms are the driving force for the Sox, and must remain so if they’re to be successful in October. The sturdiness of the bullpen, tired but resolute, cannot be understated when the workload is extended in September. No team can go 15-3 in extra-inning games without stellar and timely pitching.

But the entirety of pitching coach Carl Willis’ staff has been wonderful. Drew Pomeranz didn’t have his best fastball velocity on Tuesday and was still effective in 6 1/3 innings.

The outfield play can’t be overlooked either. Bradley’s a brilliant patrolman in center field and his leaping catches to rob home runs — he took one away from Chris Davis Tuesday — have been their own attractions.

The Sox, meanwhile, just don't hit many balls far enough to be robbed.

If you’re cut from an old-school cloth, and didn’t really love those station-to-station, home-run powered offenses of yore, this Sox team is for you. There's something to be said for the experience of simply watching something different.

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

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Red Sox score on wild pitch in 11th for 1-0 win over Orioles

BALTIMORE -- Though they rank last in the American League in home runs, the Boston Red Sox have found plenty of other ways to win - especially in extra innings.

Jackie Bradley Jr. scored the game's lone run on a wild pitch by Brad Brach in the 11th inning, and Boston used six pitchers to silence the Baltimore Orioles' bats in a 1-0 victory Tuesday night.

Boston has won 10 of 13 to move a season-high 23 games over .500 (87-64) and draw closer to clinching a postseason berth. The Red Sox started the day with a three-game lead over the second-place New York Yankees in the AL East.

It was the second straight tight, lengthy game between these AL East rivals. Boston won in 11 innings on Monday night and is 15-3 in extra-inning games - tying a franchise record for extra-inning wins set in 1943.

In this one, pitching and defense proved to be the winning formula. After Drew Pomeranz allowed five hits over 6 1/3 innings, five relievers held the Orioles hitless the rest of the way.

"They've been able, to a man, hand it off to the next guy and continue to build a bridge until we can scratch out a run - tonight not even with an RBI," manager John Farrell said. "We find a way to push a run across."

With a runner on second and two outs in the 11th, Brach (4-5) walked Andrew Benintendi and Mookie Betts to load the bases for Mitch Moreland, who sidestepped a bouncing pitch from Brach that enabled Bradley to score without a throw.

Joe Kelly (4-1) worked the 10th and Matt Barnes got three outs for his first save.

"They've been unbelievable," Boston's Brock Holt said of the bullpen. "That's why our record is what is in extra-inning games, because of those guys."

The game stretched into extra innings in part because Bradley made a sensational catch to rob Baltimore slugger Chris Davis of a home run in the fifth inning. Bradley quickly judged the trajectory of the ball while running to his left, then left his feet and stretched his arm over the 7-foot wall in center field.

The finish came after Pomeranz and Kevin Gausman locked up in a scoreless duel that was essentially the exact opposite of Monday night's 10-8 slugfest.

Although he didn't get his 17th win, Pomeranz lowered his ERA to 3.15 and set a career high by pitching at least six innings for the 17th time (in 30 starts).

Gausman was even sharper, giving up just three hits over eight innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

The right-hander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Rafael Devers singled off the right-field wall.

Baltimore threatened in the third inning when Manny Machado hit a two-out double, but he was thrown out by Benintendi trying to score on Jonathan Schoop's single to left field.

No one else got to third base until the sixth, when Baltimore had runners at the corners with two outs before Pomeranz struck out Mark Trumbo with a high, outside fastball.

The Orioles have lost 11 of 13 to fall out of contention.

"They're very frustrated right now," manager Buck Showalter said. "You can imagine grinding as our guys have since February and not being able to push a run like that across in some of these games when we pitch well. That's been a challenge for us. I feel for them because I know how much it means to them."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Red Sox: 2B Dustin Pedroia, who left Monday's game in the fourth inning after fouling a ball off his nose, did not start but was used as a pinch hitter in the 10th inning and grounded into a double play. Farrell said Pedroia will likely return to the starting lineup Wednesday. . DH Hanley Ramirez (left arm soreness) was out of the starting lineup for the sixth consecutive game. Farrell said Ramirez was available to pinch hit and is likely to start Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Red Sox: Chris Sale (16-7, 2.86 ERA) will seek to match his career high in wins Wednesday night in the series finale. He needs 13 strikeouts to become the first AL pitcher with 300 in a season since Pedro Martinez in 1999.

Orioles: Wade Miley (8-13, 5.32 ERA) has lost his last three starts. The left-hander gave up six runs and got only one out against the Yankees on Friday night.