BOSTON -- So it will be two of the originals, the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers, playing in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series, which will open in Fenway Park on Saturday night at 8:07 p.m.
The Sox and Tigers faced each other for the first time on May 22, 1901, in Detroit, the Sox winning, 9-5. They last met in Fenway Park on Sept. 4, the Red Sox winning, 20-4, in their most one-sided victory of the season. In between, they have played each other 1,981 times, the Sox leading the all-time series, 1,026-957. The Tigers won the season series in 2013, 4 games to 3.
They have never faced each other in the postseason. The Tigers had a chance on the final day to force a one-game playoff in 1967 -- there it is again, the Impossible Dream year -- but lost the second game of a doubleheader to the Angels 8-5, with the Red Sox hanging on every play while listening to the radio in their clubhouse.
In 1972, the Red Sox went into Detroit for the last series of the season leading the Tigers by a half-game, but Luis Aparacio fell rounding third on Carl Yastrzemski's triple, a critical stumble in a 4-1 loss, and the Tigers beat Luis Tiant 3-1 the next day to eliminate Boston.
The Red Sox are seeking to return to their third World Series in the span of 10 seasons, having beaten the Yankees in 2004 and the Indians in 2007 to make it to the final round. The Tigers are looking to return to the Series for the third time since 2006, having swept the Athletics in '06 and the Yankees in 2012. But they haven't won a World Series in 30 seasons, their last title coming in 1984, when they beat the Padres.
The Tigers advanced to the ALCS with a 3-0 win over the Athletics in Game 5 of their ALDS series Thursday night and will be on a redeye flight to Boston for an early-morning arrival Friday. They used their best two pitchers, Max Scherzer (in relief Tuesday) and Justin Verlander (8 scoreless Thursday), to put away the Athletics.
So unless they decide to bring back Scherzer on short rest, they will likely use a former Red Sox prospect, right-hander Anibal Sanchez, in Game 1. Sanchez pitched Game 3 against Oakland and took the loss, knocked out in the fifth inning after giving up home runs to Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith. He did not face the Sox this season, has not faced him in his two seasons with the Tigers, and was shelled for seven runs in his only career start against Boston, for the Marlins in 2006, a lifetime ago.
The Red Sox, who wrapped up their division series Tuesday night in Tropicana Field, eliminating the Tampa Bay Rays, 3 games to 1, had a day off Wednesday and worked out at Fenway Park on Thursday.
Red Sox manager John Farrell said Jon Lester, who went 7 2/3 innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs in a Game 1 ALDS win, will be on the mound for the Sox in Game 1 Saturday. Lester will be pitching with seven days' rest; he had five days' rest before facing the Rays in the ALDS and came out throwing 97 miles an hour. Lester won both of his starts against the Tigers this season, with a 4.26 ERA; he is 2-2 with a 4.63 ERA in seven career starts against Detroit.
Farrell, 51, is in his third season as a big league manager, first with the Red Sox, and is managing in the postseason for the first time in his career.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland, 68, is in his 50th season of pro ball. He has more wins (1,769) than any active manager, and has three pennants and one World Series title (Florida Marlins) on his resume. In eight seasons as Detroit manager, he has taken the Tigers to the postseason four times, more than any manager in franchise history.
The series will offer an immediate referendum on one of the summer's biggest trades, the three-way deal in which the Sox sent gifted shortstop Jose Iglesias to the Tigers and the Red Sox acquired pitcher Jake Peavy from the White Sox. Both were storylines in their team's clinchers in the division series, Peavy for pitching 5 2/3 gritty innings against the Rays, Iglesias for being on the bench in place of Jhonny Peralta, one of the Biogenesis Bunch suspended 50 games -- the reason the Tigers needed Iglesias in the first place.
Iggy had one hit in 12 at-bats (.083) in the ALDS, which put him in roughly the same zip code as Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew (2-for-15, .133). Drew also was lifted in Game 4 for 21-year-old rookie Xander Bogaerts, but both he and Iglesias still figure to get plenty of playing time in the ALCS. Peavy, meanwhile, figures to draw the starting assignment in Game 4, though Farrell may flip-flop John Lackey and Clay Buchholz, a decision the manager kept to himself on Thursday.
The Tigers and Sox will also match two of the great sluggers in the game: Miguel Cabrera, who won the batting title, led the league in on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS; and David Ortiz, who finished sixth in batting, fourth in on-base percentage, third in slugging, and fourth in OPS.