DETROIT -- If we've learned anything from the first three games of one of the more entertaining, tightly contested and utterly unpredictable American League Championship Series in recent memory, it's this:
Even the smallest mistake can lose you a game, and it might even end up taking you right out of October.
It's impossible to make confident declarations about much else when discussing this nightly barnburner of a series, but Games 1 and 2 were both decided by one run and one mistake, and so was Game 3, a 1-0 Red Sox win in Comerica Park that gave them a 2-1 advantage in the series with Game 4 looming here Wednesday night at 8 ET on FOX.
Detroit ace Justin Verlander's lone slipup on Tuesday was a missed location on a full-count, 96-mph fastball to Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli in the seventh inning.
Ballgame, as it turned out, because the stellar work of Red Sox starter John Lackey (6 2/3 scoreless innings with eight strikeouts and no walks) and Boston relievers Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa and Koji Uehara was enough to make it hold up.
"This series has been marked by very good pitching on both sides," Boston manager John Farrell said. "John Lackey was outstanding. He held his stuff throughout the entire time he was out there … just very good work by every guy that went to the mound today."
Now, everything could change on Wednesday, and that wouldn't be surprising, either, considering this ALCS has already provided two 1-0 games, a game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning and walk-off hit in the ninth, and an outfielder flipping upside-down over a wall while a police officer in a bullpen raised his arms in celebration.
Then again, it might be wise to expect that more of the same could happen in Game 4 given how evenly these teams are playing each other.
The Tigers have scored six runs in three games and the Red Sox have scored seven, and that one extra run -- Napoli's home run, really -- has been good for one extra game. Home-field advantage hasn't seemed to determine anything other than the predominant color being worn in the stands or the choices between clam chowder or Coney dogs at the restaurants by the ballparks.
"That's baseball," Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter said. "I can't even explain it. Baseball is a crazy game. Your ace is out there doing his thing, and then one home run determines the game. It's a crazy game. You stay here long enough, you're going to always see something new.
"I've been playing 20-plus years of professional ball, and I promise you, I see something new every year."
On Wednesday, the Red Sox will try for a huge 3-1 advantage in the series, and they'll be leaning on a veteran right-hander whom they acquired from the White Sox for this purpose. Jake Peavy was brought in prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline specifically to beef up the Boston rotation for October. Here he is again.
"That was the exciting part about getting traded," said Peavy, who pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up one run on five hits with three strikeouts in a no-decision in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against Tampa Bay, which Boston eventually won.
"It was obviously hard to leave a place I loved and had so many friendships and relationships with in Chicago, but when you get traded you know you're going to a contender and this is what, as a competitor, as a baseball player, playing at the highest level, you dream of being able to do -- pitch in games that mean the world to your teammates, to yourself, to your coaching staff and your fan base."
Peavy complimented the sluggers up and down the Tigers' lineup and said that he's going to have to keep his emotions in check to maximize his effectiveness to contain them.
"You're going to know how the game is going, really, by the look on my face and my reactions out there," Peavy said. "That being said, I think sometimes in my emotion it gets lost that I am thinking through what's happening in the game. I'm processing everything that's being said, everything that's being done. I will be under control."
And control is what the Tigers' Game 4 starter, Doug Fister, is all about.
His fastball doesn't register in the mid to upper 90s like those of Detroit's Games 1-3 starters, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Verlander. Fister rarely exceeds 92 mph with his heater. But when he's hitting his spots and getting the other team to roll over balls, he can be just as stifling as the other members of the vaunted Tigers rotation.
Fister, who gave up three runs in six innings against the A's in a no-decision in Game 4 of their Division Series, said that's how he'll approach Game 4 of the ALCS.
"I'm not a strikeout guy," Fister said. "I'm a guy that goes out and gets ground balls. That's my job. That's what I want to do. I want to go out there and get bad contact as much as possible in the early three pitches of the count. And I have to rely on the team.
"And that's where we're all at. We rely on each other. And to go out there and do our job and put up zeros, and that's our biggest goal, we're going to go out and put up a 'W.'"
Red Sox: Victorino's HBPs still a subject
Farrell said he doesn't think outfielder Shane Victorino, who has been hit by a Major League-record five pitches this postseason, is intentionally diving into the strike zone to get hit.
"I think as right-handers have faced him for the first time on the right side of the plate, it might be new for them," Farrell said. "If a pitcher has got an intent or desire to pitch him in for a right-handed pitcher to pitch him inside part of the strike zone, there's not much margin for error there. It's helped us on base, I know that."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland didn't make a big deal of it, either.
"When you try to throw the ball inside, you hit a guy like Shane, because he's so close to the plate," Leyland said. "I don't have any problem with that. It is what it is. You play the game and see how it all plays out."
• Designated hitter David Ortiz has appeared in all 64 of Boston's postseason games since 2003. His start in Game 3 passed Jason Varitek (63) for the club postseason record. Ortiz is Boston's all-time leader in postseason runs (44), hits (67), doubles (16), home runs (15), RBIs (50), walks (47), and extra-base hits (33).
• The Red Sox have outscored opponents, 33-18, in seven postseason games, with both losses by one run. Their last five games have been decided by a total of six runs. Boston has a 2.59 ERA (18 earned runs in 62 2/3 innings) this postseason, allowing two runs or fewer in four of their seven games.
Tigers: Concerns about Jackson?
Center fielder and leadoff man Austin Jackson went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk in Game 3 and is 1-for-13 (.077) with five strikeouts in the series. When asked if he would consider making a move with Jackson in Game 4, Leyland said he's already considered it, but he doesn't have a lot of other options.
"The only thing you could think about would possibly be to play Donny [Kelly] in center field," Leyland said. "I would think that would be the only move you could think about, thought about that one time in the series.
"But I'm not really sure that's the answer. I'll have to think about that one, sleep on it tonight. … When you see guys from any team struggling, they don't necessarily change their lineup. So I think sometimes you've just got to live with it, unless you really come up with something you really think makes sense."
• There was a moment of concern when it appeared that designated hitter Victor Martinez might have tweaked his left leg after singling in the ninth inning of Game 3 and being removed for a pinch-runner, but Martinez said he was OK.
"I'm not a basestealer," Martinez said. "Just a little cramp [in the quadriceps], but that was it. Anyway, I was going to get a pinch-runner, so not a big deal."
• Tigers pitchers have struck out 11 or more batters in four straight postseason games dating to Game 5 of the ALDS against Oakland. That ranks second all-time in the postseason, ahead of three games by the 2010 Giants. The Tigers also hold the record in that category with five straight 11-strikeout games stretching from Game 3 of the 2012 World Series through Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS, meaning Detroit pitchers have fanned 11 or more batters in nine of their last 10 playoff games.
• Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-4 in Game 3 with two strikeouts, ending his Major League postseason-record streak of 31 consecutive games reaching base. It was his first postseason game as a member of the Tigers in which he did not reach base safely.
• Prior to Tuesday's win, the Red Sox had dropped four straight postseason Game 3s, beginning with the 2008 ALDS. The club improved to 3-7 all-time in the third game of an ALCS (2-4 on road).