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MLB.com previews Red Sox vs. Tigers Game 6 matchup

BOSTON -- The American League Championship Series is on the move again, and the scene of the final act is a familiar one in baseball lore: Fenway Park, Boston's "lyric little bandbox of a ballpark" that the great scribe John Updike once so aptly described.

It will be chilled by the autumn air for Saturday's Game 6, which will begin at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

It will be crammed to the old rafters and crackling with the energy of a possibly impending pennant for the home nine.

And the way the series is going right now, it will be double-tough for the visiting Detroit Tigers to rewrite that history with their own happy ending.

After the Red Sox beat the Tigers, 4-3 in Game 5 in Detroit on Thursday night, Boston has a 3-2 lead in the series. That's two chances at home to win one game and advance to the World Series, if you're scoring at home.

And that Fall Classic would begin at Fenway, too ... not that the Red Sox are thinking too much about that possible luxury right now.

"We feel good about it," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "But we're not going to relax by any means. We've got to come out and play the game like we have all year."

It won't be easy.

Detroit will throw its Cy Young Award front-runner, right-hander Max Scherzer, in Game 6. Boston will counter with righty Clay Buchholz. And if the Tigers win, they'll have ace Justin Verlander ready for Game 7.

Following Wednesday's blip on the ALCS screen in which a team actually won a game by more than one run -- Detroit took Game 4 by the score of 7-3 -- the ALCS returned to its cuticle-chewing, slimmest-of-margins angst on Thursday night.

The Tigers chipped away at Boston's early 4-0 lead with singular runs in each of the fifth, sixth and seventh innings before Red Sox relievers shut it down for the clutch road tally, marking the fourth one-run game in the set.

Now the Tigers are gasping, although their veteran slugger, Miguel Cabrera, knows how to approach the next chapter in this best-of-seven book.

"We've got to feel positive," Cabrera said. "We've got to feel ready to play. We have been here before, down 3-2, and we don't know what's going to happen. We've got to think we can win Saturday. We've got to fight. We're going to face a tough team. They won 97 games, best team in the American League, so we've got to fight and force a Game 7.

"We have to play loose. When you try to do something you're not able to do, that's when you make mistakes. So we have to have fun and play hard and try to make something happen, try to calm down the game and have the lead in the ninth."

To that end, and with his team's season in the balance, Scherzer will try to repeat the performance in Game 2 that led him to establish a postseason career high in strikeouts with 13.

Scherzer gave up only one run on two hits in seven innings in that outing, but he watched as Boston staged the amazing comeback started by David Ortiz's game-tying grand slam in the eighth inning and finished by Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walkoff single in the ninth.

The main concern, as Scherzer knows, is that Boston will have more knowledge and possibly a more confident plan of attack against Scherzer, who went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA in the regular season, a week later.

"It changes because they're familiar with what I did," Scherzer said. "Obviously, they're going to be looking through the film and watching what I did, the sequences, patterns, when I threw offspeed pitches, when I didn't. ... I've got to be ahead of the curve.

"Obviously, I don't know exactly what I'm going to do. But there will be things I do differently."

One thing he won't do, he said, is worry about any kind of postseason pressure -- not even the task of pitching an elimination game on the road.

"You just go out there and pitch your game," Scherzer said. "Baseball is still the same, 60 feet and 6 inches [from the mound to home plate], and you have to throw strikes. The expectations and pressure doesn't mean you change.

"That's something that's always been instilled in me, and doesn't matter what the situation or what the game means, I'm always going to approach the game the same way."

The Red Sox will need a better start from Buchholz in Game 6 than the one they got in Game 2.

Buchholz looked good early in that outing, giving up only one run through the first five innings, during which time he gave up three hits and struck out six Tigers. The sixth was the problem, however. Cabrera and Alex Avila homered, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez doubled, and Detroit scored four runs to take a 5-1 lead.

Ortiz bailed him out of a loss with the grand slam and the Red Sox went on to win the game, so Buchholz could take some solace in the fact that there was some good before the bad.

"There were a couple of innings I let the ball get out of the zone and they hit it out of the park," Buchholz said. "I need to minimize the damage a little bit better. Both video and talking to whoever it is on the staff, you can sort of pick each other's brain and see what I was feeling, what I could have done differently and how to get better from it."

Meanwhile, the fact that Game 6 will be played at Fenway seemed reassuring to the right-hander.

"It's a special place," Buchholz said. "I've always liked pitching there. ... They'll let you know if you don't do the job. At the same time, if you do well, the fans there, they know the game and it's just a fun place to pitch. But [I'm] definitely looking forward to getting back out there and giving it another run."

Red Sox: Sticking with Drew
Shortstop Stephen Drew is going to start again in Game 6, despite his well-noted struggles this postseason. Drew was 2-for-15 (.133) in the AL Division Series against Oakland and is 1-for-17 (.059) with eight strikeouts in the ALCS. That's a postseason average of .094 (3-for-32).

But manager John Farrell is sticking with his man while giving 21-year-old rookie Xander Bogaerts another start at third base and putting Saltalamacchia back behind the plate.

"There's been a lot [of people] calling for Stephen's head, seemingly, but he's a very good player," Farrell said. "And in these games, defense is at a premium. And when a defensive play hasn't been made and you give a team an extra out, as good as these two teams are, you're likely going to pay for that.

"And I'm not saying that we don't have good defenders otherwise, but Stephen has taken good swings. We all recognize the struggles that are there. But he shores up the middle of our infield so well. I'm certainly going to preserve that."

• Boston is 9-3 all-time in the sixth game of a postseason set, including 5-0 at home. The club is 5-0 all-time in the sixth game of an ALCS, with two of those games at Fenway (1986, 2007). This is the first time in the club's 10 ALCS that Boston has held a 3-2 lead after five games.

• The Red Sox are 6-6 against the Tigers this season (3-4 in regular season, 3-2 in postseason), and have outscored Detroit 57-51 in those 12 games. Boston owns the AL's best regular-season record against the Tigers since 2008 at 27-16 (.628).

Tigers: Avila still a question mark
Detroit catcher Avila had a rougher night than most in Game 5. He took a solid shot from Red Sox catcher David Ross in a home-plate collision that strained the patellar tendon in Avila's left knee. He also took a foul tip to the mask that shook him up. Avila exited the game after the third and his return for Game 6 is questionable.

"We just have to wait and see how he is tomorrow," manager Jim Leyland said on a conference call with media members on Friday. "He was on the plane today, we got on the plane about the exact same time, walked up together. And he's a little sore, but we'll have to just wait and see tomorrow how it is."

Brayan Pena took over for Avila behind the plate in Game 5 and singled in a run in his first at-bat, so he would be a likely option to replace Avila on Saturday. But Leyland also said his staff has discussed the possibility of Victor Martinez catching. Martinez, who last was a starting catcher for Boston in 2010, caught three games for Detroit in 2013.

"That has been thought about, yes," Leyland said. "But I don't want to ... particularly this time of year with the significance of everything and then so much media, once you mention something like that, it's all over the wires that Martinez might catch. That's not true. I hope nobody starts writing that, because it's not true. But it would be an option, let me put it that way. It would be an option.

"You could DH Miggy and catch Victor and then obviously play [Ramon] Santiago or Donny Kelly at third, I don't think that's going to happen. But it would be an option if Alex were not able to play."

• Al Alburquerque has appeared in each of the first five games of the ALCS, setting a record for the most appearances by a Tigers reliever in a single postseason series. Alburquerque topped George Mullin (four games in the 1909 World Series), Fernando Rodney (four games in the 2006 World Series) and Phil Coke (four games in both the 2011 and '12 ALCS).

• Martinez has 16 hits through 10 postseason games this year, the second-best single-postseason total in franchise history. Carlos Guillen holds the all-time Tigers single postseason record with 17 in 2006. Sean Casey and Placido Polanco had 16 hits apiece in 2006.

Worth noting
• The Red Sox bullpen has allowed just one run in 17 innings over the first five games of the ALCS (0.53 ERA).

• Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson's two hits in Game 5 gives him eight games with two or more hits during his postseason career.

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