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Red Sox 4, Tigers 3: Sox hold on in ALCS Game 5, pull within one win of the World Series

The Red Sox jumped out to an early lead, then held on late. They'll head back to Fenway with a 3-2 lead in hand, one win shy of the World Series.

Mike Ehrmann

The Red Sox got ahead early, then barely held on late, knocking off the Tigers 4-3 to pull within one win of the World Series.

There was one clear question for the Red Sox heading into this Game 5: could they hit Anibal Sanchez? In Game 1, they had been completely dominated, held without a hit until Sanchez was in the dugout and the bullpen was wrapping up the ninth. If more of that was in store, only a miracle would save them.

Dustin Pedroia answered that question in the first, ending the no-hit bid before it truly began, singling with two down to give Boston their first baserunner of the night. The real emphatic answer, however, would come in the second, when Mike Napoli took the fifth pitch of the inning and crushed it about 450 feet to dead center for a solo shot.

The Red Sox would keep up the attack, with Miguel Cabrera whiffing on a Jonny Gomes ground ball hit right between his legs, and Xander Bogaerts doubling him over to third. Hits from David Ross and Jacoby Ellsbury would score both runners, leaving the Sox up 3-0, with Mike Napoli tacking on a fourth run in the third inning on a wild pitch after hitting a one-out ground-rule double.

If Jon Lester had been as good as he was in Game 1, the 4-0 lead would have been plenty enough to bring the win home. But he just wasn't. He managed to push his way through innings 1-to-4 without surrendering a run, but only looked his best for a short period around the third. In the fourth, he came within one ball of loading the bases before getting out of it with a double play, but could not escape allowing a run in the fifth, and put two men on with one out in the sixth, bringing John Farrell out of the dugout.

Junichi Tazawa would allow one of the inherited runners to score before getting out of the sixth, but gave up a bloop single to Jose Iglesias after a lengthy at bat to start the seventh, and a more convincing one to Torii Hunter, moving Iglesias to third. At that point, with Miguel Cabrera coming up, it hardly felt like the Red Sox were ahead at all, but once again Tazawa won that key battle, getting Cabrera to ground into a double play, scoring the run, but stopping the rally in its tracks.

From there, it was up to Craig Breslow, who retired the only two batters he faced, and Koji Uehara, who was called on to record five outs. Even with the goalposts moving ever further away, Koji managed to deliver. Two strikeouts sent the game to the ninth, where a series of fly balls ended the game, leaving Boston just one win from the World Series with two games to play in Fenway Park.

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