BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox finally showed some early-inning offense in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, and All-Star closer Koji Uehara helped them hang on at the end.
Boston beat Detroit 4-3 in another tense battle, and the Red Sox are just one win from the World Series.
Mike Napoli got the scoring started by blasting a home run to deep centerfield to begin the top of the second inning. Backup Red Sox catcher David Ross delivered an RBI double and Jacoby Ellsbury an RBI single later in the inning to take a 3-0 lead.
After slumping for much of the second half of the season, Napoli has hit two huge home runs in the ALCS. He also had a double in the fourth inning – later scoring on a wild pitch – and a single in the fifth.
Starting pithcers Jon Lester and Anibal Sanchez met for the second time this series. Sanchez, one of Detroit’s three dominant starting pitchers, threw a no-hitter through six innings of a thrilling 1-0 Game 1 victory for Detroit.
But the Red Sox got to him early and often in Game 5, with nine hits through the first five innings. He threw 108 pitches through six innings, and had to be replaced.
Lester, Boston’s ace, needed 20 pitches to get out of the first inning after walking All-Star Miguel Cabrera and giving up a singles to Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta.
But Cabrera, hobbled by injuries, was easily thrown out at the plate on Peralta’s single to end the inning. Boston left-fielder Jonny Gomes made the throw.
Lester settled down until the bottom of the fifth, when Austin Jackson led off with a single, and later scored on a Cabrera RBI single.
In the sixth, Lester walked Victor Martinez and gave up a one-out single to Omar Infante two hitters later. He was replaced by Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa.
Tazawa gave up an RBI single on his first pitch to backup catcher Bryan Pena, cutting the lead to 4-2. But the following hitter, Austin Jackson, grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning, and the Red Sox escaped with their lead still intact.
Detroit scored another run in the seventh after back-to-back leadoff singles by Jose Iglesias and Tori Hunter to cut the lead to 4-3. But again, Tazawa induced a double play – this time from Miguel Cabrera – to limit the damage and preserve the lead.
Boston called on All-Star closer Koji Uehara with one out in the eighth inning, asking him for a five-out save in the biggest game of his career. He struck out Peralta and Infante to end the inning,sending the game to the ninth.
In the ninth, he got quick fly outs from Pena and Jackson, and after a nine-pitch battle, got former Red Sox shortstop Iglesias to pop out to second.
Boston fans breathed a sigh of relief after a fourth nail-biter in five games, and the Red Sox celebrated.