Dan Petry at Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp, Saturday Aug. 14, 2004, at Comerica Park. (Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
Detroit — Dan Petry pitched more games at Fenway Park than the entire Tigers starting playoff rotation, combined.
And he’s here to tell you …
“It,” said Petry, “is a tough place to play.”
Particularly from the pitchers’ standpoint, given the ballpark’s quirky dimensions – and probability for a big offensive inning, with the Green Monster a mere (and intimidating) 310 feet from home plate down the line in left field. And just down the line in right field, it’s even closer – 302 feet, around Pesky Pole – before jutting out quickly toward the gaps.
The Tigers pitchers, as good as the starters are, will have their work cut out for him, particularly against a lethal Red Sox offense that led MLB in runs in 2013 – which Detroit got an up-close look at the last time these teams met.
The Red Sox won that game, 20-4, and had 19 hits.
Petry spoke to The News at length before tonight’s start of the American League Championship Series, and much of the conversation was about the pitchers.
Petry pitched in 21 games at Fenway Park, including some in 1991, when he played for Boston, the final stop of his 13-year, four-team major league career. And one thing he learned, the hard way (5.44 ERA at Fenway): Pitchers can’t alter their game plans too much. They must, mostly, stick to and trust what got them in this position, in the first place.
That said, some minor adjustments could be necessary.
Petry said one mistake visiting pitchers too often make at Fenway, particularly against the right-handed hitters, is trying to stay away with everything, to live on the outside corner – thus, in theory, preventing batters from pulling the ball and going deep over the Green Monster.
That often backfires, though, Petry said. Often, right-handed hitters simply will look for that pitch, gear up for it and reach out and hook it over the wall anyway.
That’s why, Petry said, it’s critical for Tigers pitchers to keep the Red Sox right-handed hitters honest, particularly on the inside corner of the plate. You can't be afraid to pitch inside against them, and that goes for left-handers, too, otherwise they can just reach out and drive balls off the wall in left for doubles.
If you can keep hitters hitting to the middle of the park, you can have some success there.
The Tigers starters who are in line to pitch at Fenway Park this series are Anibal Sanchez (tonight), Max Scherzer (Sunday) and Justin Verlander (Game 7, if necessary).
For Sanchez, who actually was originally signed by the Red Sox before being traded to the Marlins, this will be his first start in Boston. Scherzer has made four starts there, and is 1-2 with a 3.86 ERA and 28 hits allowed in 25.2 innings, while Verlander is 2-3 in seven starts with a 3.97 ERA, and 44 hits allowed in 47.2 innings.
Scherzer and Verlander, though, have done a good job at keeping the ball in the park at Fenway. Scherzer has allowed just two home runs, and Verlander four.
The Tigers hitters, of course, could use the Fenway Park dimensions to help wake up their offense, too. That short left field could help get Austin Jackson or Torii Hunter going, though they could run the risk of trying being pull-happy – which isn’t part of their games. Alex Avila and Prince Fielder are good bets to drive the ball that way, too.
But there’s just something about Fenway. The Red Sox always play so well and so tough there. They won 53 games at home this year, most in the American League. The fans are wild, and legit.
So if you’re the Tigers, “you’d be really happy if you could come home with a split” in the first two games in Boston, said Petry, 54, who resides in Metro Detroit and has worked some broadcasts for the Red Sox this season, and the Tigers in the past.
“I do think it’s gonna be a six- or seven-game series. I’d be a little surprised if it ended in a sweep, or something like that.”