BOSTON — The Boston Red Sox were able to relax as they watched Justin Verlander finish off Oakland in the playoffs, secure in the knowledge that they wouldn’t have to face him in Game One of the American League Championship Series.
Instead, they get the league’s ERA champion, Anibal Sanchez.
Followed by Max Scherzer, the major league leader in wins.
And then comes Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young winner and MVP.
“I don’t think there are really any consolation prizes when you’re playing them,” Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia said on Friday, when the teams worked out in preparation for Game One of the ALCS (7:30 p.m., Ch. 29, Radio 1520). “All their guys are really good. … All their guys are horses.”
A former Red Sox prospect, Sanchez will start the best-of-seven series opener at Fenway Park against Boston left-hander Jon Lester. Sanchez led the AL with a 2.57 ERA even though he spent most of the year as the No. 3 pitcher in the rotation, behind Verlander and Scherzer.
“I feel like our rotation is relentless,” Verlander said. “There’s no sigh of relief. There’s no break. Every day you’re getting somebody that’s really good.”
Verlander has been one of baseball’s top pitchers for years, and he’s a big reason why the Tigers have returned to the ALCS three years in a row. But he pitched on Thursday night, taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning in the clincher against Oakland.
Scherzer came on in relief in Game Four to help force the series to the limit. That leaves Sanchez, who allowed five earned runs in 4∑ innings in his Game Three start against the A’s, for the opener against Boston.
“You think that to not have to face Justin for the first few games is a relief,” Red Sox starter Jake Peavy said, “until you realize this team doesn’t stop. When you’ve got the ERA leader followed by Max Scherzer, who’s probably going to win the Cy Young, there’s a reason they are where they are.”
Boston’s Lester was 2-0 against the Tigers this year.