DETROIT — It took only one bad pitch from Justin Verlander to decide Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Tuesday at Comerica Park.
But one was enough for Boston Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli.
With Verlander continuing the Detroit Tigers' dominant string of starting performances, Napoli hit a home run in the seventh inning to give the Red Sox a 1-0 victory and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
"The boy took care of me once again," Red Sox starter John Lackey said. "He has hit some big dingers this year, and he hit one today."
Lackey outdueled Verlander in the second 1-0 game in the series, throwing 62/3 innings and watching his bullpen come through in the clutch.
Verlander pitched eight innings, with the Napoli home run on a 3-and-2 pitch his only mistake. He struck out 10 batters and gave up four hits, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning and throwing 120 pitches.
"It's two heavyweights going at it," Verlander said. "If you can't appreciate this, you can't appreciate baseball. It has been an amazing three games."
The Tigers blew a prime scoring opportunity in the eighth inning when Torii Hunter's single put runners at the corners with one out. But Junichi Tazawa struck out Miguel Cabrera on a 1-and-2 fastball that Cabrera lunged at and missed.
Tazawa said he was surprised catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia called all fastballs, but the strategy paid off.
"'Salty' put me in a really good spot, and I was able to get him out," Tazawa said. "I was thinking worst-case scenario, and walking him was not the worst thing to do."
Closer Koji Uehara took over after the Cabrera strikeout and struck out Prince Fielder on three pitches to strand the runners.
The Tigers had one last gasp when Victor Martinez led off the ninth inning with a single to center field. But Jhonny Peralta grounded into a double play and Uehara struck out Alex Avila to end it.
The Red Sox are hitting .133 in the series and have scored runs in only three of the 27 innings. The three Tigers starters — Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer and Verlander — have combined for an 0.86 earned-run average and given up only six hits over 21 innings with 35 strikeouts.
The Red Sox led the majors this year in runs and ranked second with a .277 average. But they certainly are struggling at the plate.
"'Lack' finally figured out that we're only going to give him one run," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said. "He learned from the whole year. Our pitching was unbelievable, and 'Nap's swing … it was a great win for us."
The Red Sox pitchers have a combined 2.00 ERA in the series and have limited the Tigers to a .225 average in the first three games. Cabrera is hitting .182.
"To give my team a chance to win I would have had to put up all zeros," Verlander said.
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