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October 12, 2013

Sox starters must bring nothing short of 'A' game

BOSTON — Here come the Detroit Tigers — and their awesome, stingy playoff rotation of Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez.

It will be the Red Sox vs. Tigers fighting it out in an American League Championship Series that pits cigarette-smoking, old-school manager Jim Leyland against the much less-experienced John Farrell and also features two of the game’s best sluggers, David “Big Papi” Ortiz and triple-crown king Miguel Cabrera.

What could be better than this? Not much else if you’re a baseball fan.

Game 1 is tonight at 8:07 p.m. here at Fenway Park. Jon Lester will start for Boston.

Improved starting pitching is the biggest reason the Red Sox made it to the ALCS. Boston’s 3.79 staff ERA during the regular season was the club’s best since 2002 (3.75) and significantly better than last year’s horrendous 4.70.

Sox starters combined for a 3.65 ERA in their ALDS victory over the Rays, earning them a solid “B” in my grade book.

But to out-pitch the Detroit starters — and limit a lineup that includes Cabrera and former Boston catcher/DH Victor Martinez (.361 average during the second half), the Sox need to bring their “A” game and nothing short of it.

John Lackey recently said, “One run feels like three in the postseason.”

But being down one run to Verlander or Scherzer in the postseason, well, that might feel more like six runs.

It’s simple. Clay Buchholz can’t groove a meatball to Miguel Cabrera with two runners on and a three-run lead like he did with Evan Longoria in Game 3 of the ALDS.

Lackey, meanwhile, can’t give up four runs in 5.1 innings like he did in Game 2. He needs to be the bulldog who earned some monster playoff victories with the Angels, including a win in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series.

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