Napoli powers Boston to 1-0 win in Game Three

Wed Oct 16, 2013 7:22pm EDT
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(Reuters) - One swing of the bat by Mike Napoli was all that separated the teams as the visiting Boston Red Sox edged the Detroit Tigers 1-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series on Tuesday.

The game featured another pressure-packed pitchers' duel, with Detroit's Justin Verlander and Boston's John Lackey holding their opponents scoreless until Napoli's crushing blow with one out in the seventh off a 96 mph fastball.

It was a flashback moment for Napoli, who had hit a home run in his first major league at-bat as a 2006 rookie against Verlander - and none against the hard-throwing righthander since - until Tuesday's game-winning blast.

"He's tough. He was on his game tonight and keeping us all off balance," Napoli said about Verlander, who did not yield a hit until two outs in the fifth inning. "I got him into a 3-2 count and put a good swing on a pitch and was able to get it."

Pressed further about his approach, the heavily-bearded Napoli revealed a superstitious moment with another of his hirsute team mates.

"I rubbed my bat on Jonny's (Gomes) beard before I went out to that at-bat," said Napoli. "I just tried to put a good at-bat together and I came through."

Detroit threatened in the seventh and again in the eighth, with runners on first and third and one out, and the dangerous, though hobbled, Miguel Cabrera at-bat.

Reliever Junichi Tazawa struck out Cabrera, who has been suffering from a groin injury, on an outside fastball before Red Sox manager John Farrell summoned closer Koji Uehara to face Prince Fielder.

Uehara struck out Fielder on a diving, split-fingered fastball to end the threat before shutting the Tigers down in the ninth to seal the victory and get hoisted up over David "Big Papi" Ortiz's shoulder in celebration.   Continued...

Oct 15, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli (12) runs the bases after hitting a home run against the Detroit Tigers during the seventh inning in game three of the American League Championship Series baseball game at Comerica Park. Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports