BOSTON — With a giant “B Strong” logo mowed into the grass in center field at Fenway Park, there’s no question the tragedy at last April’s Boston Marathon still resonates in this city.
The bombing that left three dead and many injured probably will be revisited again this weekend when the Red Sox play host to the Tigers in the American League Championship Series, which opens Saturday with a matchup of Jon Lester and Anibal Sanchez.
But as much as the Red Sox have used the “Boston Strong” campaign as a metaphor for their rags-to-riches season, Tigers starter Max Scherzer doesn’t believe any town has a monopoly on finding inspiration from what transpired that day.
“That’s not just a Boston thing, that’s a nationwide thing,” Scherzer said. “We all saw the videos and the horrific events. That’s not something that just affects Boston. That affects everybody in America. It’s unfortunate it happened here in Boston, but that’s something that touched everybody across America.”
The Tigers, as are the Red Sox, are trying to win for Detroit and their fans, and after the Giants swept them in last year’s World Series, they don’t really need anything to motivate them.
“We just want to win,” third baseman Miguel Cabrera said.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland called last October’s sweep “a little bit embarrassing,” and said they are just glad to be back in the ALCS for the third straight year to try to make amends.
“Like I said in Oakland, we were almost just trying to get to the Final Four,” he said. “It’s almost like a basketball tournament. We’re in the Final Four, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Red Sox have had a few days to rest after knocking out the Rays in four games. The Tigers were on fumes Friday night after flying to Boston from Oakland following their Game 5 victory.
“We’re zombies today, I’m not going to lie,” said Scherzer, who faces Clay Buchholz in Game 2 on Sunday. “We took a red-eye flight and only got a couple of hours sleep on the plane and a couple at the hotel. We’re anxious to get to sleep tonight.”
The Tigers and Cardinals are standing in the way of the World Series that Fox network executives privately are drooling over, a Red Sox-Dodgers matchup that would feature more stars and dramatic storylines than baseball has seen since the Yankees and Dodgers squared off three times between 1977-81.
But the Tigers have the best player in the game in Cabrera, who struggled some with a .250 average in the Division Series victory over the A’s, after hitting only. 278 with one home run in September. A groin injury and abdominal pains have affected Cabrera’s dominance, which seems to have had a domino effect on the entire Tigers lineup.
Cabrera said Friday he felt good, and the home run he hit Thursday to lead the Tigers past the A’s had nothing to do with it.
“Winning is what it’s all about,” he said.
If Cabrera’s power is muted, the Red Sox stand a good chance of ending their six-year World Series drought, which may seem like a lifetime to young Boston fans spoiled by the 2004 and ‘07 champs.
“You hope that you can find ways to, I don’t want to say ‘contain’ (Cabrera), but maybe minimize the damage when the situations present themselves,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “That’s where Victor Martinez has made their lineup that much (deeper), especially the second half of the season.”
The Tigers and Red Sox ranked first and second, respectively, in American League hitting, while the Tigers have only a slight edge in pitching, with a 3.61 regular season ERA to the Red Sox’s 3.79. It could come down to the bullpens, where Boston closer Koji Uehara has been almost unhittable since the All-Star break.
Either way, whoever survives the first-ever postseason meeting between these two storied American League franchises should be well tested for their World Series opponent.
“It’s tough to get here, believe me,” Leyland said. “And now, once again, it becomes a crapshoot.”