So before this best-of-seven, right-to-play-for-the-World-Series tussle kicks off — Game 1 is set for 8 p.m. Saturday, from Fenway — here are a few things to know about the matchup:
One hundred years of history, but none in the postseason: The Sox and Tigers have played each other nearly 2,000 times overall since 1901, according to ESPN Boston’s Gordon Edes, but the two teams have never played each other in the postseason.
More recently, the Sox and Tigers played each other seven times in the 2013 regular season, with Detroit taking four of those games. The Tigers won three of four in Detroit in June, but then the Sox won two of three (including a 20-4 mauling) in Boston in early September.
The Sox have homefield advantage in this ALCS, by virtue of their best-in-the-league record.
A star-heavy Tigers team: While Boston may have a bit more balance throughout the roster, Detroit has two ace starting pitchers, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, and baseball’s best hitter, in Miguel Cabrera.
Scherzer had 21 wins this year and helped the Tigers to the best starters’ ERA in the AL, and Verlander, who pitched below expectations for a lot of the season, has found his dominant form at a bad time for Sox fans. (Previewing the series on WBUR Friday morning, baseball analyst Glenn Stout referred to Verlander as “a buzzsaw … at the top of his game.”)
But two caveats: Cabrera, though a dominant slugger, is battling injury, and because of division series work, neither Scherzer nor Verlander is available for Game 1 in Fenway.
Monster Mash: This series features the MLB’s two best offenses this year.
How the Sox ranked:
– Runs scored: #1
– Batting average: #2
– On base percentage: #1
– Slugging: #1
And how the Tigers ranked:
– Runs scored: #2
– Batting average: #1
– On base percentage: #2
– Slugging: #2
The top of Boston’s lineup — Jacoby Ellsbury, Shane Victorino, Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz — had a really strong division series against Tampa Bay. They’ll be looking for a repeat.
The Sox bullpen: Boston’s corps of relievers has gone through a lot of changes this year, but since mid-June Koji Uehara has been outstanding as the closer, and middle relief has righted itself. Uehara gave up a game-winning homer against Tampa — the first home run he’d allowed since June — but he came back the next night to close out the division series. Left-handed reliever Craig Breslow was pivotal in that Game 4 win.
A trade looms large: As Edes also noted, a three-team deal this summer brought the Red Sox starter Jake Peavy from the White Sox and sent young shortstop Jose Iglesias from Boston to Detroit. It will be interesting to see whether either of these two plays a decisive role.
Toss up?: So who will win? Of eight ESPN experts, four take the Sox, four take the Tigers.
Game 1 is Saturday night, with Boston starter Jon Lester up against Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez.
Oh, by the way: I didn’t even mention anything about the power of beards.