BOSTON – The Boston Red Sox may hit a home run or two and their pitchers can fire a fastball, but this team also puts down bunts, steals bases and grinds out at-bats. Their pitchers are effective when mixing up their pitches.

As for the Detroit Tigers, they come right at you, all muscle.

“We’re going up against a team with power arms and power bats,” Red Sox Manager John Farrell said.

Detroit brings its strength to Fenway Park on Saturday night for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

This is the first time these historical franchises have met in the playoffs.

Boston led the league in runs and was second in batting. Detroit led in batting and was second in runs.

The Tigers’ lineup is centered around their 3-4-5 hitters: Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez.

“We’ve got some specific plans for each guy and particularly that middle three,” Farrell said.

Martinez is on a tear, batting .450 with a home run in the division series. Fielder hit .278 with no extra-base hits and Cabrera batted .250, but with a critical home run in Game 5 on Thursday.

Cabrera has been hampered lately with a strained groin muscle but is still a threat.

Jon Lester, Boston’s starter Saturday, spoke of the batters ahead of the Big Three being as important — fewer RBI for Cabrera, Fielder and Martinez.

“You have to be on top of your game from Pitch 1 and execute down in the zone,” Lester said. “Keep them in the ballpark, that’s a big key.

“If they are able to hit some home runs, hopefully you’ve kept guys off the base paths so they’re just solo shots.”

In a 10-6 win at Detroit on June 21, Lester lasted 52/3 innings, giving up nine hits, including two home runs, one of them a three-run shot by Cabrera.

Lester faced Detroit at Fenway on Sept. 3, allowing one run over seven innings in a 2-1 victory.

Besides the big hitters, Boston must face the formidable rotation of Anibal Sanchez (AL’s best ERA at 2.57), Max Scherzer (21-3 and the likely Cy Young winner), ace Justin Verlander (who nearly no-hit the A’s on Thursday) and Doug Fister (who shut out the Red Sox over seven innings Sept. 2).

“We have to find a way to get their starting pitchers out of the game,” Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. “All their guys are horses.”

The Red Sox will try to drive the starters’ pitch counts up. That has Detroit Manager Jim Leyland concerned, but not because Boston will take pitches.

“If you take strikes, that’s a good thing for us,” Leyland said. “The (Red Sox) are so good because they’re experienced hitters, veteran hitters, and they can foul off tough pitches. That’s what extends the pitch count.”

Detroit won the ALCS last year.

“So we’re back,” Leyland said. “We’re in the Final Four. We’ll see what happens.”

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: ClearTheBases


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