scorecardresearch Skip to main content

How the Red Sox and Tigers match up

Prince Fielder and the Tigers are coming to Boston for the ALCS. Jared Wickerham/Getty Images/Getty


The two most potent offenses in the major leagues are meeting head-to-head.

The Tigers have what may be the greatest offensive player of his generation in Miguel Cabrera. He has been slowed by leg injuries, but he cashed in when it meant the most vs. Oakland, with a two-run homer in Game 5, showing that he is still a force despite starting that Division Series 4 for 16.

The Red Sox counter with David Ortiz, who was the fourth-most productive hitter in baseball this season with a .959 OPS (Cabrera was first at 1.078).

The Tigers recently received a boost with the return of Jhonny Peralta from a 50-game PED suspension. Peralta, a shortstop by trade, has been playing left field (though he started at shortstop in Game 5) and is giving Detroit some extra thunder in its already potent lineup.


The Red Sox definitely have better table-setters. Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino hit .500 and .429, respectively, in the Division Series against Tampa Bay, reaching base 20 times and scoring nine runs in four games.

The Tigers haven’t been able to match that top-of-the-order production. Austin Jackson was 2 for 20 with 13 strikeouts in the ALDS and was not much of a base-stealing threat with only eight all year. Torii Hunter (.158 in the ALDS) has struggled in the 2-hole.

The Red Sox can beat you with their running game, while the Tigers can hurt themselves with base cloggers.

Defensively, the Red Sox win here as well, with a far superior fielder at virtually every position except shortstop, where Jose Iglesias beats anyone.

The Tigers’ lack of speed and defense didn’t hurt them too badly during the season because of their offense and pitching, but the Red Sox can utilize their small-ball component when their big bats aren’t working.


The Red Sox were 3-4 against the Tigers, 1-3 in Detroit and 2-1 in Boston, including a 20-4 victory in their last meeting at Fenway Sept. 4. The Tigers hit Sox pitching at a .282 clip with six home runs.


CFJacoby EllsburyL.298.35557792172318953
vs. Tigers.320.37925483015
RFShane VictorinoS.294.351477821402621561
vs. Tigers.320.43325381016
2BDustin PedroiaR.301.37264191193422984
vs. Tigers.250.29028271002
DHDavid OrtizL.309.3955188416038230103
vs. Tigers.357.419285101047
1BMike NapoliR.259.360498791293822392
vs. Tigers.318.37522371012
LFDaniel NavaS.303.385458771392901266
vs. Tigers.300.39120362012
CJ. SaltalamacchiaS.273.338425681164001465
vs. Tigers.167.23112220001
SSStephen DrewL.253.333442571122981367
vs. Tigers.333.46221773012
3BWill MiddlebrooksR.227.27134841791801749
vs. Tigers.333.33315251016
CFAustin JacksonR.272.337552991503071249
vs. Red Sox.478.538237113001
RFTorii HunterR.304.334606901843751784
vs. Red Sox.286.32328481004
3BMiguel CabreraR.348.44255510319326144137
vs. Red Sox.421.52219282014
1BPrince FielderL.279.3626248217436025106
vs. Red Sox.250.29028271017
DHVictor MartinezS.301.355605681823601483
vs. Red Sox.185.29027551015
SSJhonny PeraltaR.303.358409501243001155
vs. Red Sox.214.31314130014
CAlex AvilaL.227.31733039751411147
vs. Red Sox.000.1436000000
2BOmar InfanteR.318.345453541442431051
vs. Red Sox.240.29625262012
SSJose IglesiasR.303.34935039106162329
vs. Red Sox.333.3339132002

Starting pitching

The top of the Detroit rotation is daunting, with 21-game winner Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander (right), and American League ERA leader Anibal Sanchez. The Red Sox have a pretty good match with Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, and John Lackey. The teams also have comparable fourth starters in Jake Peavy and Doug Fister.

The problem for the Tigers, who had a 6.05 staff ERA against the Red Sox, is that they won’t have their rotation set up quite as they’d like because they had to go five games with Oakland. They will have to use Sanchez first, followed by Scherzer in Game 2 and Verlander for Game 3.

While both rotations are very good, the offenses don’t seem to fear anyone. The Sox beat Scherzer in the midst of his tremendous season.

The Red Sox touched up Verlander in their only meeting, getting him out of the game by the fifth inning (7 hits, 4 runs).

In Game 1, the Red Sox will go with Lester, and while his record vs. Detroit this season doesn’t look bad (2-0, 4.26), consider that Miguel Cabrera has mauled him for a .526 average in 24 career plate appearances, Victor Martinez hits him at a .429 clip, Torii Hunter at .433, and Jhonny Peralta at .296 (2 homers).


Prince Fielder (.444), Cabrera (.333), Martinez (.379), and Peralta (.355) all have good career numbers vs. Lackey, while Hunter (.438), Jackson (.321), and Cabrera (.289, 3 homers) fare well vs. Peavy.


LJon Lester15-83.75213.1209896717719
vs. Tigers2-04.2612.21763122
RJohn Lackey10-133.52189.1179744016126
vs. Tigers0-13.1414.11452100
RClay Buchholz12-11.74108.1752136964
vs. Tigers----------
RJake Peavy12-54.17144.2130673612120
vs. Tigers1-05.147.044273
RMax Scherzer21-32.90214.1152695624018
vs. Red Sox1-12.5714.01143141
RJustin Verlander13-123.46218.1212847521719
vs. Red Sox0-07.205.074340
RAnibal Sanchez14-82.57182.015652542029
vs. Red Sox----------
RDoug Fister14-93.67208.2229854415914
vs. Red Sox1-15.2310.1156541


The Red Sox appear to have the edge, starting with Koji Uehara, even though he blew a game against Tampa Bay. The Tigers blew 7 of 16 save opportunities late in the season.

The Red Sox have three dependable relievers in Uehara, Junichi Tazawa, and Craig Breslow (left), while the Tigers have been a bit of an adventure with Joaquin Benoit at the end of the bullpen. The addition of Jose Veras in late July didn’t seem to help much, though Drew Smyly has been an effective lefty for them.

John Farrell will not hesitate to use Uehara for 4-6 outs if need be. Because Uehara is such a strike thrower, he doesn’t waste many pitches and therefore can be used longer than a typical closer.


RKoji Uehara4-11.0974.133991015
vs. Tigers0-00.002.000030
LCraig Breslow5-21.8159.2491218333
vs. Tigers0-00.002.220100
RJunichi Tazawa5-43.1668.1702412729
vs. Tigers0-00.002.010120
RRyan Dempster8-94.57171.1170877915726
vs. Tigers1-06.006.064271
RBrandon Workman6-34.9741.2442315475
vs. Tigers0-00.001.110010
LFranklin Morales2-24.6225.1241315212
vs. Tigers0-010.803.154261
LMatt Thornton0-43.7443.1471815304
vs. Tigers0-00.002.210020
LJose Alvarez1-55.8238.2422516317
vs. Red Sox0-03.605.052231
RRick Porcello13-84.32177.0185854214218
vs. Red Sox0-114.405.078443
RLuke Putkonen1-33.0329.230109284
vs. Red Sox0-02.703.141010
RAl Alburquerque4-34.5949.0392534705
vs. Red Sox0-013.502.244332
LDrew Smyly6-02.3776.0622017814
vs. Red Sox1-00.004.240040
RJose Veras0-53.0262.2452122606
vs. Red Sox0-00.002.010020
RJoaquin Benoit4-12.0167.0471522735
vs. Red Sox1-06.751.121020


The Red Sox seem to have an advantage, being able to use David Ross as their defensive catcher, while also being able to call on Mike Carp, Jonny Gomes/Daniel Nava, and Xander Bogaerts off the bench.

The Tigers have all-purpose Don Kelly, who can play anywhere. Andy Dirks is a bat off the bench if he doesn’t start in left field. But, for the most part, the Tiger lineup is the Tiger lineup.

The Red Sox have been effective with late pinch hitting by Carp and Gomes. With four righthanded starters in the Detroit rotation, Gomes may see more bench duty in this series.


Would John Farrell take Bogaerts off the bench and start him over the struggling Stephen Drew (.133 in the Division Series)?


LFMike CarpL.296.3622163464182943
vs. Tigers.143.2507210001
CDavid RossR.216.298102112250410
vs. Tigers.250.4004010000
LFJonny GomesR.247.34431249771701352
vs. Tigers.231.23113131001
SSXander BogaertsR.250.320447112015
vs. Tigers.000.0001100000
LFQuintin BerryL.625.6678550014
vs. Tigers1.0001.0002220002
2BRamon SantiagoS.224.298205274681114
vs. Red Sox.500.5002010000
2BHernan PerezR.197.2176613130105
vs. Red Sox.000.0001000000
2BAndy DirksLF.256.32343860112162937
vs. Red Sox.353.45017460112
2BDon KellyLF.222.309216334861623
vs. Red Sox.250.2508220000
CBrayan PenaS.297.3152291968110422
vs. Red Sox.333.33315250001


Jim Leyland (above) is tried and true, while John Farrell had his breakout year and is likely to win the American League Manager of the Year award.

Leyland managed a superstar offense and a tremendous starting rotation. He had to withstand some injuries and subpar play by his team in the last two months (24-25 over their last 49) yet the Tigers managed to come back from being down, two games to one, to beat Oakland in the Division Series.

Leyland won’t have his pitching lined up the way he would like, because he had to use Justin Verlander to beat the A’s in Game 5, but he will have Max Scherzer and Verlander lined up for Games 6 and 7 if it gets that far.


Nick Cafardo can be reached at