The Detroit Tigers had it set up perfectly: Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder coming to the plate with a chance to tie the game, or even take the lead.
And then, nothing.
Cabrera and Fielder both struck out swinging with runners at the corners to end the eighth inning as the Boston Red Sox held on to beat the Tigers 1-0 Tuesday for a 2-1 lead in the AL championship series.
After John Lackey outpitched Justin Verlander, the Boston bullpen took over.
Cabrera, a leading contender to win his second straight AL MVP award, couldn't make contact against right-hander Junichi Tazawa and fanned chasing an outside fastball he couldn't reach. Fielder, with three straight 100-RBI seasons, then took a feeble swing and struck out closer Koji Uehara.
Verlander, meanwhile, pitched another gem.
Verlander didn't give up a hit for 5 2-3 innings and allowed only one run on Mike Napoli's solo shot in the seventh inning. He was finished after eight innings, giving up four hits and striking out 10.
The Tigers will hand the ball to right-hander Doug Fister on Wednesday, hoping he can help them win Game 4 and tie the series.
Verlander became the first to strike out six straight batters in a league championship series, according to STATS, in the second and third innings. He is also the first in postseason history to strike out at least 10 and allow four or fewer hits in three straight games, STATS said.
The hard-throwing righty didn't make many mistakes, but Napoli appeared to take advantage of one, sending a full-count pitch over the left-center wall.
It was the first run Verlander had given up in the playoffs, ending a 21-inning scoreless streak. Including the regular season, he hadn't allowed a run in 34 straight innings.
After a shaky 13-12 regular season, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner has been sensational in the postseason.
He pitched eight scoreless innings in Game 5 of the division series against Oakland, helping the Tigers advance to the ALCS for the fourth time since his rookie year of 2006.
Verlander was dialed in physically and mentally in this start. He was seen pointing to his wrist, looking at pitching coach Jeff Jones, to check how quickly he was delivering to the plate with speedy Jacob Ellsbury on first base during the sixth inning. Verlander also appeared to be yelling at left fielder Andy Dirks to make sure he was ready if Ellsbury tagged to advance on a fly.