DETROIT– The last time Justin Verlander took the mound, his team’s season was on the line.
The stakes won’t be quite that high for his next start, but the Detroit Tigers could use another brilliant performance from their star right-hander after blowing a chance to take control of the American League Championship Series.
Detroit wasted a five-run lead Sunday night in Game 2 in Boston, allowing the Red Sox to even the best-of-seven series with a 6-5 victory.
David Ortiz’s tying grand slam in the eighth inning snapped the Red Sox out of a hitting funk — and if Boston advances to the World Series, there might be little doubt about the turning point in the ALCS.
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Verlander’s job is to steady the defending league-champion Tigers in Game 3 on Tuesday in Detroit.
“Obviously that was a tough one,” he said of Game 2. “At the same time, you know this series is going to be a dogfight.”
Detroit starter Max Scherzer allowed a run and two hits in seven innings Sunday. Boston trailed 5-1 in the eighth before a remarkable rally against four relievers. Ortiz tied the score with a two-out grand slam off closer Joaquin Benoit.
“I made a mistake that I take full responsibility for,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Monday. “I should have just reminded (Benoit) that we didn’t want Ortiz to really beat us. He tried to make a great pitch. He tried to get it low and away, out of the strike zone, but he didn’t get it there.”
Boston has struck out 32 times — eight more than the previous record for the first two games of an LCS, set by the Los Angeles Dodgers a day earlier.
“I think we certainly gained some confidence in the last couple innings,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “The work of (Game 1 starter Anibal) Sanchez and Scherzer has been nothing short of spectacular. … We feel like tomorrow’s starter in Verlander is going to be a similar, if not a more difficult, challenge than what we faced already.”
After a pedestrian regular season by his standards, Verlander pitched 15 scoreless innings in the AL Division Series against Oakland, including eight in a winner-take-all Game 5 on the road. The Tigers have taken no-hitters into at least the sixth inning in three straight games, a remarkable feat even for a staff that set a major-league record with 1,428 strikeouts during the regular season.
In last year’s playoffs, the Tigers’ starting rotation posted a 1.02 earned-run average through the ALDS and ALCS. Detroit then was swept by San Francisco in the World Series.
“We’ve got a starting rotation that’s relentless, and I said that before the series started,” said Verlander, who won the 2011 AL most valuable player and Cy Young awards. “Every guy has their unique ability to shut down a team in their own way.
“I’m just one of the four guys right now.”
John Lackey will pitch for Boston.
• All-Star third baseman Manny Machado of the Baltimore Orioles had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left knee and recovery time is estimated at six months.
• Oakland right-hander Sonny Gray will have surgery on his left thumb to repair a torn ligament.