DETROIT — After watching the Tigers lose in the American League Championship Series in 2011 and seeing the Giants sweep them in last year’s World Series, Motown is getting antsy.
And when the crowd of 42,669 began booing star first baseman Prince Fielder on Thursday night in Game 5 of the ALCS, it was another sign the bloom was off the rose.
Spending money on expensive free agents is what’s expected now in Detroit, and nothing less than a championship will satiate the fans’ appetite.
But the Tigers’ road was made a little rockier Thursday when the Red Sox hung on for a 4-3 victory to take a 3-2 lead in the series.
The ALCS moves back to Fenway Park for Game 6, with Clay Buchholz facing Max Scherzer on Saturday with a chance to end it.
“We have to win one game, that obvious,” Leyland said afterward. “Win one game and take it from there.”
Beforehand, Leyland refrained from calling Game 5 a “must-win” situation for the Tigers and acknowledged it would be tough to win twice in Boston.
“They’re pretty good there, obviously,” he said.
After managing only three hits over the first 16 innings of the series, the Red Sox climbed out of the grave to win Game 2, then took two of three in Comerica Park.
They grabbed a 4-0 lead after four innings off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez, then hung on for dear life.
Jon Lester got the win, with Koji Uehara retiring all five hitters he faced to notch a save.
“I’ve caught a lot of good closers in my career,” catcher David Ross said. “And he ranks up right there with all of them.”
The momentum changed in one wild stretch when MVP favorite Miguel Cabrera ran through third base coach Tom Brookens’ stop sign and was thrown out easily at the plate to end the first.
“He was waving (him home) and probably stopped him a little late,” Leyland said of Brookens, calling it “one of those unfortunate things” that happens.
“Everybody just assumes the next guy is going to get a hit,” Leyland said. “That doesn’t always hold true, but ( Brookens) made a mistake.”
Cabrera, who has battled groin and abdominal injuries recently, limped back to his position after his collision with Ross.
Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli promptly cranked a mammoth home run to center field leading off a second, estimated at around 450-feet.
“It really doesn’t matter to me,” he said of the distance. “It can go in the first row.”
Said second baseman Dustin Pedroia: “It’s still going. It’s still on its way up. … It was a bomb. (Center fielder Austin) Jackson didn’t really go back after it, so I was confused.”
Cabrera then booted a routine grounder for an error, leading to two more runs being scored in the inning. Napoli scored on a two-out wild pitch in the fourth to make it 4-0
“Weird play,” Napoli said. “We were talking earlier, 90 feet can win you a ballgame, and that definitely helped tonight.”
Tigers catcher Alex Avila was removed for a pinch-hitter in the fourth after suffering a left knee patellar tendon strain. Avila was hit hard in a collision at the plate while tagging out Ross the second. Both catchers have had concussions before. In Ross’ next at-bat, he fouled one off Avila’s mask.
“That was a pretty good shot he took,” Ross said. “That’s how I got my concussion, so I’m very sensitive to that. That’s a terrible, terrible (feeling). You don’t really know the severity of it until you get a concussion.”
The booing of Fielder began in the fifth after he grounded out to end the inning following Cabrera’s RBI single. Fielder hasn’t driven in a run in the postseason in 17 games, since Game 1 of the ALCS last year.
The Tigers scored single runs in the sixth and seventh, but couldn’t muster up a real rally. Cabrera grounded into a double play in the seventh that brought home a run, pulling the Tigers to within 4-3 before Fielder grounded weakly to second.
Uehera retired all five hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth, turning Comerica Park into a mausoleum. It was the first five-out save for a Red Sox pitcher in the postseason since Jonathan Papelbon did it in Game 4 of the 2007 World Series.
Uehara has done it before, but this one was special.
“Maybe it’s the same five outs number-wise, but it was completely different because it’s the playoffs,” Uehara said.