Detroit — The Tigers were expected to be here.
The Red Sox, most certainly, were not.
Not after what went down late in 2011, when FriedChickenGate got in the way of their playoff aspirations — and eventually cost Terry Francona his job
And not after what went in 2012, when Bobby Valentine was an utter failure, and the Red Sox unloaded some big names (Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez) and one big bust (Carl Crawford).
But with another new manager (John Farrell) and some new players (Mike Napoli, Stephen Drew, Shane Victorino) that helped patch a severely fractured clubhouse, the Red Sox roared back to the top of the American League East.
Top of the AL, in fact; nobody had more than their 97 wins.
Their offense is lethal (they led the league in runs; their second-round opponent, the Tigers, were second) and versatile. Their pitching, both starting and relief, has some big-time arms.
They, no doubt, will be the favorites against the Tigers in the AL Championship Series, which starts Saturday night in Boston.
Not to the point ESPN blowhard Skip Bayless declared on Twitter the other night — “Nobody's beating the Red Sox this year” — but few will expect the Tigers to knock them off.
Here are five quick facts about the Red Sox:
1. Running men
They run, and run wild. For the regular season, they stole 123 bases and were caught just 19 times. They stole another six in the ALDS. Jacoby Ellsbury (56 of 60) is the ring leader, there. Ex-Tiger Quintin Berry is on the roster, just for his legs. So any thought to having Victor Martinez catch for Detroit, you can forget about that right now.
2. Shutdown closer
As energetic as Koji Uehara is, their closer is even more talented. This year, he had a 1.09 ERA, with 101 K’s in 741⁄3 innings. He blew two saves in that role.
3. Booming bats
You think the A’s had power? Well, the Red Sox have it from 1-9. Case in point: Will Middlebrooks usually bats eighth or ninth; he has 17 homers.
4. Pitching to Tigers
Their starting pitching is nice, but not as dominant as Detroit’s. After Jon Lester and maybe Clay Buchholz, the rotation can be had. The Tigers are plenty familiar with Jake Peavy.
5. Tough at Fenway
No AL team won more games at home (53, and 2-0 in playoffs).