- Buster Olney, Senior Writer, ESPN Insider
BOSTON -- David Ortiz hosted his Red Sox teammates for a barbecue at the two acres of his home here Thursday, a night away from the grind. Sort of. There are six televisions in the Ortiz home, and what filled the screen of each was the Detroit Tigers, playing their Game 5 against the Oakland A's.
Boston and Detroit go back to work tonight in the American League Championship Series. Here are 10 crossroads to watch, as the Tigers or the Red Sox navigate their way to the World Series.
1. Detroit's starting pitchers versus the relentless Boston hitters
The backbone of the Tigers’ success is their rotation, which in this series will start with Anibal Sanchez, followed by Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and bat-breaking Doug Fister. In the regular season, Detroit starters led the majors in innings (1,023) and had about 10 percent more strikeouts than any other rotation.
The Tigers’ rotation is the modern-day version of the Braves’ rotations of the '90s. But what the Red Sox hitters do better than anybody is wear on starting pitchers. Through their collective at-bats, they damage pitch counts like no other team.
Total number of pitches seen in 2013, by team:
Red Sox -- 25,664
Twins -- 25,027
Athletics -- 24,500
Indians -- 24,409
Mets -- 24,331
Diamondbacks -- 24,288
Rays -- 24,219
Mariners -- 24,138
Tigers -- 24,040
Blue Jays -- 23,955
Reds -- 23,955
When Leyland spoke with the media Friday, he said the same thing that a lot of the Red Sox hitters have been saying: Boston’s ability for extended at-bats is not about taking pitches. Taking strikes, he said, would be good for the Tigers.