Looking ahead at potential ALCS opponents

As we put a bow on the ALDS and rest up for the late nights ahead in the ALCS, here’s a look ahead at Boston’s next foe: the winner of the Tigers-Athletics Game 5 scheduled for Thursday in Oakland.

First, let’s state the obvious: The fact that these teams need to play in a pivotal Game 5 can only benefit the Red Sox. While Sox pitchers are resting, hurlers for the Tigers and A’s will be pulling out all the stops.

The Tigers will start Justin Verlander, which means he won’t be able to pitch against the Red Sox until a potential Game 3 in Detroit.

Athletics manager Bob Melvin has decided to go with rookie Sonny Gray to start Game 5, bypassing Game 1 starter Bartolo Colon.

Tigers ace -- and likely Cy Young winner -- Max Scherzer pitched on three days’ rest (two innings, 47 pitches) in a Game 4 win on Tuesday. He could face the Red Sox in a potential Game 1 on Saturday, but it would again be on three days’ rest (albeit after throwing less than 50 pitches).

Former Red Sox farmhand Anibal Sanchez (owner of an AL-best 2.57 ERA) looks to be the most likely candidate to pitch in Game 1 against the Red Sox should the Tigers advance. That would slot Scherzer in Game 2 and Verlander for Game 3. Again, that could change if any of these arms are called upon in Thursday’s winner-take-all clash in Oakland.

For Oakland, the Sox would likely face Colon in Game 1, assuming he doesn't take the mound at some point Thursday. Colon took the loss in Game 1 of the ALDS, giving up three runs in six innings. Gray, meanwhile, was brilliant in Game 2 (no runs allowed in eight innings).

After that, it’s likely the Red Sox would see Jarrod Parker or Dan Straily in Game 2.

No matter what happens, the Red Sox will rest easier knowing this fact, as tweeted by 98.5 The Sports Hub afternoon host Tony Massarotti: