October 15, 2013 at 1:00 am

Kurt Mensching

Tigers still own edge in pitching over Red Sox, despite Sunday's disaster

Joaquin Benoit is removed from Sunday night's game by manager Jim Leyland. (Elise Amendola / Associated Press)

Pitching is key when talking about baseball.

So, after a loss like the Tigers suffered to the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series, itís important to remember this:

Pitching still favors Detroit.

Weíve seen again and again, from Max Scherzer shutting down the Aís and then the Red Sox, to Justin Verlander refusing to cede a single run to the Aís, to Anibal Sanchez and the bullpen coming within two outs of a combined no-hitter in Game 1 of the ALCS.

Of course, bad pitching can be disheartening when it coughs up the lead, like the bullpen did in the Game 2 loss as the Red Sox rallied from five down to win.

Game 2 might still sting a little bit, but thanks to the rotation of Sanchez, Scherzer, Verlander and Doug Fister, thereís optimism.

And hereís why: strikeouts.

Sox strikeout-prone

Baseball writer Joe Sheehan, in a recent newsletter, noted teams that put the ball in play tend to do better in the postseason.

Is that oversimplification? Sure, in some ways.

Could it be a coincidence it has occurred the past few years? Certainly.

But itís a trend that has played out in favor of the Tigers this postseason.

Detroitís hitters struck out less than any other team during the regular season. Boston batters were ninth-worst.

And the Tigers pitchers?

Scherzer struck out 28.7 percent of batters faced, Sanchez 27.1 and Verlander 23.1. Out of the bullpen, Al Alburquerque struck out 31.8 percent of batters, Benoit 27.6 and Smyly 26.7.

When a strikeout-prone team faces a strikeout-throwing staff, the defense rests. The Red Sox struck out 17 times in Game 1 and 13 in Game 2.

Verlander revives hope

If the Red Sox canít hit it, they canít hurt you.

But if they put it in play, bad things can happen.

Like a tying grand slam.

Or an ill-advised infield throw.

Or a missed pop-up.

Still, if youíre looking for a reason to believe in the Tigers, here it is:

Momentum is only as good as the next gameís starting pitcher.

And for the Tigers, itís Verlander.

Get ready for some more Ks.

Kurt Mensching is the editor of Bless You Boys, a Tigers blog (blessyouboys.com). He can be reached at bybtigers@gmail.com

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