This Week in Boston Baseballing, October 11 – 17

After Boston got shut out in Game 1 of the ALCS Saturday night, 1-0, the Red Sox came back from a 5-0 deficit during Sunday night’s Game 2 emotional victory. Offense at Comerica Park was at a premium during the next three games, but Boston somehow managed to win two of three, including wins against two of the best pitchers in the AL this year in Justin Verlander and Anibel Sanchez.

The Red Sox are one win away from a third World Series appearance in 10 years. Clay Buchholz takes the mound for Boston on Saturday against Max Scherzer.

The Koji Factor
Koji Uehara recorded the final five outs of the game last night. They didn’t come nearly as easily as the outs he’s been getting over the last few months. The Tigers extracted 27 pitches out of Koji, even managing to lay off eight of his offerings. But the game, even a one-run game, felt a lot more secure in his hands than anyone else’s. Uehara retired all five batters he faced, striking out two.

Big Papi Did It Again

The legend was already pretty well set in place before the 2013 playoffs began.These last few years of regular season production felt like they could have been the icing on the cake. Now, it feels like there may be a few more layers to this guy’s mystique. You know the guy is pretty well established when it takes four minutes to piece together all the late-innings heroics he’s managed in the postseason alone.

Napoli Starts Mashing
Mike Napoli has always been a streaky hitter. Boston’s willingness to ride out the slumps now look to be paying dividends. Napoli’s solo home run Tuesday paced Boston’s unexpected victory against Verlander and his 440-foot shot to dead center last night led the way during a 3-for-4 night.

Napoli HR off Sanchez

Stan Grossfeld Still Has It
The sense here is that most people feel they have to categorize the shot of the Boston Police officer in the bullpen as iconic because of unfortunate events earlier this year that have thrust law enforcement personnel into the spotlight. Even Deadspin, which rarely passes up the chance to pick nits when it comes to Bostonian sports fan behavior, called the Stan Grossfeld shot at the front of Monday’s Boston Globe Sports section the “Photo of the Year.” Maybe that’s as fair a take as any.

Can’t we all just agree it’s nice to see a Boston Police officer do anything in uniform other than stand at an intersection and stare at a smartphone while a jackhammer screeches behind him?

John Lackey Continues His Renaissance
Lackey’s dominant performance in which he outdueled Justin Verlander on Tuesday afternoon was not only one of the best games of the pitcher’s career but also, given the context, one of the best starts by a Red Sox pitcher in the team’s playoff history.

From Jonah Keri on Grandland:

Of the 97 pitches he threw Tuesday night, Tigers hitters swung and missed at 16 of them, including six whiffs out of the 31 sliders thrown.

Somehow, what John Lackey has done in 2013 has nearly vindicated all of the drudgery of his first two years in Boston. It is almost as though his first two years, followed by his missing 2012 after Tommy John surgery, were a test of tolerance and patience – one in which we all failed as fans one way or another.

This would be the guy taking the ball in a potential Game 7.

Figuring Out Who John Farrell Trusts Is Getting More Confusing
Generally speaking, it appears the Red Sox manager determines the level of trust he has in a given player based primarily on seniority. One can make pretty solid, albeit debateable arguments he left two veterans in their respective ALCS starts too long – Clay Buchholz in Game 2 and Jake Peavy in Game 4. Moreover, Farrell has steadfastly refused to replace the struggling Stephen Drew in the lineup. Second-year “veteran” Will Middlebrooks also continued getting starts up until Game 5, when Xander Bogaerts was finally given a well-deserved look.

Meanwhile, there is a good possibility that Farrell occasionally gets swept up in the same narratives that are advanced by the media. For example, he declined to pinch hit Daniel Nava for Jonny Gomes in the 8th last night against right-hander Jose Veras.

None of this is really surprising to anyone paying attention to Farrell’s bullpen usage this season, when he exhibited a puzzling trust in rookie Brandon Workman during several key late and high-leverage situations. It appears younger players, especially rookies, have limited opportunity to impress Farrell enough to be given special leeway. Established veterans, meanwhile, are Established Veterans™.

Farrell has done an incredible job this year managing the team. But going forward, he’ll need to develop a better stomach for playing prospects because this is likely a ballclub that will only continue to get younger during the next few years. Maybe Bogaerts’ steady performance on Thursday night in which he doubled, scored a run and saw 19 pitches in just three ABs will help open Farrell’s mind when assessing younger players as viable options.

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