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ALCS Gm3: Lackey, Verlander lock horns in ALCS Game 3

DETROIT -- Game 1 was crazy and Game 2 was even crazier, so if the American League Championship Series keeps this up, there's no telling what kind of full-on insanity might take place on Tuesday afternoon in Game 3 at Comerica Park.

A perfect game, maybe?

A team coming back from a 12-run deficit?

A position player hitting a go-ahead home run in the 24th inning and then pitching the 25th for the save?

Hey, don't roll your eyes. There's simply no telling the direction in which this thing is headed other than about 700 miles west of Boston to Detroit, where this knotted-up insta-classic will resume at 4 p.m. ET on FOX, with Detroit's Justin Verlander going against Boston's John Lackey.

Monday's Game 2 in Fenway Park looked like a foregone conclusion after seven innings. Max Scherzer had exited with a four-run lead and 13 strikeouts, and the Red Sox continued to look lost at the plate just one night after being one-hit by Anibal Sanchez and a quartet of Detroit relievers.

Then the eighth inning happened, with the Red Sox loading the bases and David Ortiz hitting a game-tying grand slam with two out.

Then the ninth inning happened, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia singling in Jonny Gomes to pull off a near-miraculous win.

In other words, it's a brand-new series, folks, best of five, starting at zero. The engines have been fired up for the trip to Motown, the players are on the ground, and we'll see if the Red Sox took that "mo" onto the charter and stuffed it into the overhead compartments.

"Complete change of momentum," Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks said. "That's exactly what it is. That just shows what this team is made out of, and it all goes to these veterans who have pushed us to be great every day."

Added Red Sox catcher David Ross: "This is the playoffs. You're not down. That's not an option, to be down. This is a fighting group. We're not getting down on ourselves. We're going to keep battling."

So are the Tigers, who vowed not to let this incredible swing of events get them off task.

"We came away with the split," Scherzer said. "You have to see the glass half-full. This [loss] stinks, but guess what? The sun comes up tomorrow, and we're going to be playing these guys at home in front of our fans. It's up to us to choose if we're going to come out and compete. I think we will. I don't think this is going to deter our effort. I believe in this clubhouse. I believe in everybody in here, all 25 guys here. I still believe in us."

On that front, it helps to have Verlander leading the charge.

The Tigers had to wait until Game 3 to send their ace to the hill because they used him in the Game 5 Division Series masterpiece in Oakland, in which he gave up two hits in eight shutout innings while striking out 10.

It was a great sign for the Tigers, who had been waiting for the dominant Verlander they'd been accustomed to watching show up on a consistent basis.

Verlander was good during the regular season, going 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA and 217 strikeouts in 218 1/3 innings, but it wasn't the same Verlander who won the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011 and finished second in the Cy voting in 2012.

"Obviously, that was a tough one," Verlander said. "At the same time, you know this series is going to be a dogfight. Nobody is going to walk over anybody.

"These are the two best teams in the American League. We've made it to this point. When we played each other during the regular season, it was a dogfight. At this point in the season, nobody is going to give in. Nobody is going to give an inch, even down, 5-1. Those guys battled. It was a heck of a ballgame. Obviously, it [stinks] to let it slip away. This is baseball. You've got to reset and come ready to play the next game."

Lackey is well aware of this. He enters Game 3 with plenty of postseason experience and a chance to prove himself in October once again. He missed all of 2012 following a tough 2011 campaign in his first season in Boston after signing a five-year deal, came off Tommy John surgery this year and entered camp in good shape.

He ended up contributing 189 1/3 innings, striking out 160 and finishing with his lowest ERA (3.52) since 2007, when he finished third in the AL Cy Young voting.

The big right-hander has a decorated postseason resume, having won Game 7 of the 2002 World Series for the Angels as a 24-year-old rookie and pitching in the playoffs for the Angels in 2005, 2007, 2008 and 2009.

"It was fun," Lackey said of the 2002 whirlwind, in which he started two games of the seven-game Series win over the Giants and also made a relief appearance. "I was just kind of a young guy trying to help out a group of veterans that year, staying out of the way, being quiet and doing my job.  

"I've done it a few more times since then and been a little bit more involved as … more as the leader of the pitching staff."

The Red Sox will be leaning on that presence as the ALCS scene shifts to a new venue.

Red Sox: Ortiz's October legend grows
Ortiz's grand slam was the first of his postseason career, the fourth in the postseason history of the Red Sox and the third Boston grand slam in the ALCS.

Ortiz also tied Jason Varitek's club record of 63 postseason games. Ortiz has appeared in every Red Sox postseason game since 2003 and is Boston's all-time leader in postseason runs (44), hits (67), doubles (16), home runs (15), RBIs (50), walks (47) and extra-base hits (33).

Lackey said that Ortiz is one of those rare players who was born to perform on the biggest stage.

"He genuinely likes it," Lackey said on Monday. "He likes being up there in those spots. He enjoys all the lights on him. You saw last night, he didn't get that fired up about it at the end. It was almost like he expected to do it.

"He's a special player. He's fun to play with."

• With his plunking by Scherzer in the first inning of Game 2, outfielder Shane Victorino became the first batter to be hit by a pitch five times in a single postseason. He had been sharing the record, four, with Miguel Cairo of the Yankees (2004) and Carlos Ruiz of the Phillies (2010).

"I've seen some pitches that he got hit on that were strikes," Verlander said. "So … I don't think you can worry about that. I think just whoever is the home-plate umpire needs to be aware that he's up there."

• This marks the third time in Red Sox history that the team has dropped Game 1 in an ALCS and then come back to win Game 2.

Tigers: Starters still stingy
The Tigers became the first team in postseason history to post three straight games in which their starting pitcher opened with at least five no-hit innings. Verlander pitched 6 2/3 no-hit innings to open Game 5 of the AL Division Series vs. Oakland; Sanchez and relievers Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit no-hit the Red Sox through 8 1/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALCS; and Scherzer opened Game 2 with 5 2/3 no-hit innings. The Tigers also allowed no hits in the first five innings of their last three ALCS games, dating back to Game 4 of the 2012 ALCS.

• Miguel Cabrera's homer in the sixth inning extended his streak of reaching base safely in postseason games with the Tigers to 31, a big league postseason record. He has reached base in 46 of his 48 career postseason games with the Marlins and Tigers via hit, walk or error.

• Tigers pitchers have struck out 11 or more batters in three straight postseason games dating back to Game 5 of the ALDS against Oakland. That ties the 2010 Giants for second most all-time in the postseason.

Worth noting
• The Red Sox lead the Majors with a team-record eight postseason stolen bases. The previous club high was eight, set in 2004. Jacoby Ellsbury (four stolen bases), Quintin Berry (two) and Victorino (two) are the only players with multiple steals this postseason. Ellsbury's nine career postseason steals are a club record, breaking Johnny Damon's mark of eight.

• With 17 strikeouts in Game 1 of the ALCS and 16 in Game 1 of the ALDS, the Tigers became the first team to record two games of 16-plus strikeouts in a single postseason. There have been only 13 games in postseason history that have featured at least 16 strikeouts by one team.

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