Boston’s David Ortiz, center left, celebrates with Mike Napoli after Napoli’s solo home run during the seventh inning provided the only run in Game 3 of the ALCS against the Tigers on Tuesday evening in Detroit. The Red Sox lead the best-of-seven series 2-1.
DETROIT — Playing defense behind the three Tigers starters who throw the fastest can get, well, a little bit slow.
“It’s boring,” right fielder Torii Hunter said. “I don’t get any balls. They’re easy, a can of corn, if there’s a fly ball.”
That will change in Game 4.
On a pitching staff with three ace-worthy power arms, the forgotten man will become the leading one today as fourth starter Doug Fister looks to kick-start the Tigers’ fading playoff hopes.
After three straight double-digit strikeout games by Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander, the 6-foot-8 right-hander will try to avoid being like the rotation’s top-end pitchers he otherwise emulates.
“Obviously I look up to those other guys,” Fister said Tuesday. “They’ve performed very well this year and in years past. This is something special for me to be a part of. ... I think you have to come to terms with what you do and do it well. I’m not a strikeout guy. I’m a guy that goes out and gets groundballs.
“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 my team.”
Fister (14-9) is 4-5 with a 4.83 ERA in 12 career starts against the Red Sox but held them to seven scoreless innings in Boston last month.
PROTECT AND CHEER: Hunter was back in the starting lineup Tuesday, his 38-year-old body OK but his feelings still hurt.
With a wide grin, he blasted the Fenway Park cop-turned-folk-hero who gleefully watched David Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam — and Hunter — fly over the right-field wall Sunday night.
“The cop is supposed to be protect and serve, and this son of a gun has his hands up,” Hunter said. “I better not ever see him again. Help me and then cheer, fool.”
A reporter showed Hunter the destined-to-be-iconic photo in the Boston Globe that captured the scene. The impeccably timed shot features the Boston cop, Steve Horgan, signaling “touchdown” in celebration and the upside-down Hunter’s legs splayed skyward.
“See that, look,” Hunter said. “I sure wish I would have kicked him in his face.”
COKE, ANYONE? So now Leyland brings in Phil Coke to face Ortiz?
Two days after summoning closer Joaquin Benoit — and not Coke — to face Boston’s clutch slugger, Leyland turned to his left-handed specialist to face Ortiz in Tuesday’s eighth inning.
Coke got Ortiz to ground out to second with one out and the bases empty. It was the only hitter he faced in his first appearance of the playoffs.
Earlier, Leyland made no apologies for using Benoit against Ortiz late in Game 2, and no one was asking for one. Benoit held left-handed batters to a .194 average during the regular season.
But Ortiz’s game-tying grand slam made for compelling talk-radio fodder. If Leyland is not going to use Phil Coke against the lefty Ortiz, why was the southpaw back on the playoff roster?
Ortiz is now 2 for 19 all-time against Coke, who missed the division series with a sore elbow.
Leyland said he wanted to use Coke “in not such a huge pressure situation after being away for so long. Benoit is our guy against righties and lefties,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”
EXTRA INNINGS: The game was delayed 17 minutes in the second inning after a nearby substation failure caused a power outage at Comerica Park. Power was restored immediately, but the lights took about 15 minutes to power back to full strength. ... Motown legends The Four Tops performed the national anthem. ... Tickets for potential World Series games at Comerica Park will go on sale at noon today online at tigers.com or by phone at 866-66-TIGER. Fans may purchase up to four tickets for any one game. If the Tigers advance, they would host Games 1 and 2 on Oct. 23 and 24, and if necessary Games 6 and 7 on Oct. 30 and 31. ...The Tigers’ pitching staff’s 32 strikeouts in back-to-back games in Games 1 and 2 set a postseason record, surpassing the 31 by the 1996 Indians in Games 3 and 4 of the 1996 division series against the Orioles, who returned the favor in Games 3 and 4 of the 1997 ALCS. The Tigers hope history does not repeat itself. The Orioles won the series 3-1 in 1996 while the Indians won in six games in 1997.