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Red Sox head home up 3-2

Fri., Oct. 18, 2013, midnight

Boston’s Will Middlebrooks slides safely into third under the tag of Detroit catcher Brayan Pena. (Associated Press)
Boston’s Will Middlebrooks slides safely into third under the tag of Detroit catcher Brayan Pena. (Associated Press)

Boston offense finally solves tough Tigers pitching

DETROIT – Mike Napoli’s majestic homer began a rare early Boston breakthrough, Junichi Tazawa again bested Miguel Cabrera in a crucial spot and the Red Sox moved within one win of reaching the World Series by edging the Detroit Tigers 4-3 on Thursday night.

Boston returns to Fenway Park with a 3-2 lead in the A.L. championship series. Game 6 is Saturday with the Tigers’ Max Scherzer facing Clay Buchholz.

Cabrera was thrown out at the plate in the first inning, halting an early Detroit rally, and he hit into a double play against Tazawa with runners at the corners in the seventh. The Tigers scored a run on the grounder, but it was a trade-off the Red Sox were willing to make.

Napoli led off a three-run second with a drive off Anibal Sanchez into the ivy beyond the wall in center field.

Detroit’s starters had allowed only three runs in 27 innings through the first four games of the series. After pitching six no-hit innings in Game 1, Sanchez allowed four – three earned – in six innings Thursday.

Jon Lester allowed two runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings Thursday. He walked three and struck out three, and the Boston bullpen held on to finish off the fourth game of the series to be decided by one run.

“There’s probably a reason I don’t have any hair,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Perdroia said. “It’s stressful.”

Down 4-2 in the seventh, the Tigers put runners on first and third with nobody out when Jose Iglesias and Torii Hunter singled. Cabrera, who struck out with runners at the corners against Tazawa in the eighth inning of a 1-0 loss in Game 3, hit a soft grounder to second for a double play this time.

That was Detroit’s last stand. Craig Breslow retired slumping Prince Fielder to end the seventh and got the first out of the eighth. Then Koji Uehara got five straight outs for the save.

Detroit turns to Scherzer, a 21-game winner, to try to extend the season. The Tigers will have Justin Verlander for Game 7 if there is one.

Detroit may be without catcher Alex Avila. He left after the top of the fourth with a strained left knee.

Boston led in only four of 36 innings in the first four games, but the Red Sox won two of them.

They struck early in Game 5 when Napoli’s drive easily cleared the 420-foot marker in center and landed in the ivy above two rows of bushes. That was the start of a three-run second, and it was Napoli’s second big homer of the series. His solo shot was the only run of Game 3.

Detroit revamped its lineup before its Game 4 win – dropping Austin Jackson from the leadoff spot to eighth and moving almost everyone else up a place. The Tigers went with that same general framework Thursday, but it was Boston manager John Farrell’s adjustments that paid off.

Farrell’s changed faces – Jonny Gomes, starting in left field instead of Daniel Nava; 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts, who started at third instead of Will Middlebrooks; and David Ross, catching instead of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, all figured in the Boston scoring.

Boston missed out on another run when Ross was thrown out at home. Ross plowed through Avila at the plate – then gave Avila a pat on the backside after he held onto the ball.


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