The game the day — heck even the series — was supposed to belong to Justin Verlander.

John Lackey didn't care. Neither did Mike Napoli. And the two of them were at the forefront of the Red Sox' 1-0 victory in Game 3 of the ALCS at Comerica Park. The Sox now lead the best-of-7 series 2-1.

Verlander is more than merely the Detroit Tigers' ace. He's the best big-game pitcher in baseball. Last week when the Tigers needed a victory to extend their season all he did was throw 111 pitches deliver eight shutout innings and beat the Oakland A's in Game 5 of the Division Series. Verlander hadn't given up a run in almost a month — Sept. 18 to be precise — looking every bit as electric as at any point in his AL MVP season of 2011.

Nevertheless through six innings at Comerica Park Lackey out-Verlandered Verlander. Napoli who had been 0-for-6 with six strikeouts in the ALCS snapped a scoreless stalemate by swatting Verlander's 100th pitch -- a 96-mph fastball no less -- over the left-center field fence with one out in the seventh. And the Red Sox did what nobody outside of their clubhouse thought they could handing Verlander the loss and taking the upper hand in this series.
In what could be described as nothing short of the best start of Lackey's Red Sox career (with all due respect to his complete-game two-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles last month consider the circumstances) the big Texan allowed two hits and struck out eight in 6-2/3 walk-free innings. Between Prince Fielder's two-out single in the first inning and Victor Martinez' one-out base hit in the seventh he retired 16 of 17 batters.

Lackey didn't just match Verlander pitch for pitch. He outpitched him.
Didn't expect that did you? Perhaps we should have.
"John Lackey is a stud" Jake Peavy the Sox' Game 4 starter said before the game. "And it's been funny for me to watch all the coverage of the game coming in. I have heard John Lackey's name mentioned three or four times. Almost like we didn't have a starter going today. Our starter is pretty good too."
In fact when Farrell went to his bullpen with two outs in the seventh with Lackey having thrown only 97 pitches it raised more than a few eyebrows. But lefty Craig Breslow got out of the seventh and after he walked Austin Jackson with only one out in the eighth Farrell resisted the temptation to go to closer Koji Uehara and called on set-up man Junichi Tazawa. Farrell even stuck with Tazawa after he allowed a Torii Hunter single that put the tying run on third base and brought Miguel Cabrera to the plate.

But before anyone could further question Farrell's sanity Tazawa struck out Cabrera on four straight low-and-away pitches preserving the slimmest of leads for Uehara who recorded the final four outs including a ninth-inning double play by Jhonny Peralta and a game-ending strikeout of Alex Avila.

For five innings at least it was fair to say Verlander was at his dominating best. He mowed down the Red Sox on only eight pitches in the first inning and seven in the fourth and after having to sit for nearly a half-hour while the game was delayed because of an electrical problem he struck out the side on 14 pitches in the third. At one point he retired 11 consecutive batters eight by strikeout a streak that ended with Jonny Gomes' two-out infield single in the fifth the Red Sox' first hit of the game.