ALCS Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3

ALCS Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3

Mike Napoli gets the Boston offense started, Koji Uehara closes out a gritty road victory


Mike Napoli hit a 460-foot home run to get the Red Sox off and running in Game 5. (AP) 
by Steve Silva, Boston.com

The Boston Red Sox are one win away from making their third trip to the World Series since 2004.
 
What looked like a comfortable Sox lead early on turned into a nail biter but Boston prevailed with a 4-3 win in Game 5 and the Olde Towne Team heads home leading the ALCS three games to two over the Detroit Tigers.

Closer extraordinaire Koji Uehara came on for the five out save in the eighth inning and closed it out on a cold night at Comerica Park. He fanned Jhonny Peralta and Omar Infante on splitters to finish off the eighth. Then in the ninth inning, Uehara got Brayan Pena, Austin Jackson, and Jose Iglesias to fly out to end it. Uehara needed 27 pitches to pick up his fourth save of the postseason.

Uehara is the first Red Sox pitcher to record a save of at least five outs since Jonathan Papelbon closed out the 2007 World Series sweep over the Colorado Rockies.

"We gotta win one game and take it form there," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Then you got a shot to win the next one."

The Red Sox got the bats going early in Detroit in Game 5 for a change, getting on the board first as the offense finally unloaded on Anibal Sanchez in the second inning. Mike Napoli started it off when he hit a Sanchez fastball a country mile to straight away center to lead off the inning. The ball actually traveled 460 feet.  

"Off the bat you know [Napoli] got it good," Farrell said. "We saw it land and he's got tremendous power. I don't know if it relaxed us or gave us life, but he has the ability to carry us and equal to the home run was his base running tonight. His instinct on the wild pitch turned out to be the difference."

After the Napoli bomb, Jonny Gomes reached on an error by Miguel Cabrera, Xander Bogaerts later roped a double to left, then David Ross followed with a double scoring Gomes, but Bogaerts went back to tag and could only get to third base on the hit. Jacoby Ellsbury followed with an infield single, scoring Bogaerts anyway to make it 3-0 Boston. 

With one out in the inning, Shane Victorino grounded to a drawn-in Infante at second who then threw home to get Ross but the Sox catcher steamrolled Tigers catcher Alex Avila on the play. Avila was clearly shaken up and twisted his left knee on the play. Pena, the Tigers backup catcher, came in to replace Avila in the fourth inning. Avila suffered a left knee patellar tendon strain after the collision, and is day-to-day.

Prior to the three-run second inning, Boston had not scored before the sixth inning in five straight games.

In the top of the third, Iglesias made the defensive play of the postseason when he ran a long way -- 133 feet to be exact -- from the Ortiz-shift position near second base way into left field to snag a pop fly off the bat of Big Papi. A simply amazing play that will have Red Sox fans and Bob Lobel asking, "Why can't we get players like that?" Iglesias made a nearly identical play to get Stephen Drew on a pop to left field in the eighth inning. The kid can play defense.

Boston scored its fourth run of the game when Napoli came in on a wild pitch with two out. The Sox power-hitting first baseman hit a ground-rule double with one out, advanced to third on a ground out by Gomes, then scored when a Sanchez pitch bounced in the dirt in front of the plate and got away from Avila.

Napoli now has two homers, two doubles, and a single in his last three games.

Iglesias was also the victim of a terrific defensive play when Sox starter Jon Lester bobbled his sacrifice bunt but then was able to shovel the ball with his glove into the glove of Napoli to nab the former Sox shortstop by a hair in the fifth inning. But the Tigers would get on the scoreboard when Cabrera drove in Jackson -- who has been on base all six times since moved to eighth spot in the Tigers lineup -- with a single to center.

Lester had a solid but short start -- holding the Tigers to one run into the sixth inning -- before handing off to Junichi Tazawa after 5-1/3. Tazawa promptly gave up a single to left-center which scored Victor Martinez with Detroit's second run. Run charged to Lester. But Tazawa got the red-hot Jackson to hit into a 5-4-3 double play to get out of the jam.

Lester, who held the Tigers to two runs, has allowed three runs or fewer in all five career postseason starts on the road.

Detroit made it a one run game in the seventh inning when Iglesias singled off Tazawa to start the inning. Iglesias moved to third on a Torii Hunter opposite field single and scored when Cabrera hit into a double-play on a ground ball to Pedroia at second. But the Red Sox snuffed out the seventh comeback when Craig Breslow came in and retired the struggling Prince Fielder on a ground ball that Pedroia handled for the third out. Fielder, who has ended eight innings in this ALCS, left the field to more boos at his home park.

Detroit's seventh-inning run snapped Boston's scoreless relief streak at 17-1/3 innings, the team's second longest streak in one postseason. 

The Red Sox nearly added an insurance run in the ninth inning. Bogaerts walked to start the inning, then pinch runner Will Middlebrooks advanced to third on a sacrifice sacrifice bunt by Ross. After Ellsbury was intentionally walked and stole second base, Victorino struck out swinging and Pedroia flied out to center to end it without pushing a run across.

The Tigers nearly got on the board in the bottom of the first. Cabrera walked, Prince Fielder hit a ground ball single, then with two out Peralta singled to left field but Gomes threw out Cabrera at the plate by 10 feet. Tigers third base coach Tom Brookens sent Cabrera, then tried to hold him, but it was too late as Cabrera ran through the stop sign and doesn't run well as he's been dealing with a groin issue.

Leyland said after the game that Brookens made a mistake on the play and should have held Cabrera sooner instead of waving him home.

Game 6 is Saturday at Fenway -- time to be determined depending on what happens with the Dodgers-Cardinals Game 6 Friday night. Clay Buchholz will face the Tigers Max Scherzer.
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