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Red Sox are unaffected by proximity to Series

Farrell's crew has no plans to let up on gas with AL pennant in reach @RichardJustice

DETROIT -- Go ahead and ask the Boston Red Sox about winning the American League pennant.

"We don't worry about the big picture," second baseman Dustin Pedroia said.

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Sure, Dustin, but ...

"It's focus on the next pitch," he added.

For six months, these Red Sox have impressed almost everyone with their work ethic and preparation and such. To think they would do otherwise now that they're on the threshold of a dream is to not understand the very thing that has made them so special.

The Red Sox are relentlessly boring. That is, if professionalism and sweating the small stuff is boring. So even after beating the Detroit Tigers, 4-3, on Thursday night in Game 5 of the AL Championship Series, the Red Sox were not thinking beyond Game 6.

Beautiful, huh? Yes, in the most basic of ways, it's absolutely beautiful. The Red Sox lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2, and can clinch the pennant by winning on Saturday at Fenway Park, 4:30 p.m. ET on FOX, unless the NLCS ends on Friday night, in which case Game 6 would move to 8 ET.

They're close enough now to touch it and feel it and taste it. Best of all, they've got two chances at home to win it.

Right, fellas?

"We feel good about it," Pedroia said.

See, that wasn't so tough, was it?

"But we're not going to relax by any means," he added. "We've got to come out and play the game like we have all year. That's it. In this environment, you can't worry about, oh, we're facing this guy or that. We're worried about just playing the game."

Don't be fooled. The Red Sox understand how close they are to the World Series. They also understand their opponent. These two ALCS teams are so evenly matched that the series still feels far from being over.

In these first five games, four have been decided by one run. That means four of the five games have been decided by one hit or one pitch or one play.

The Red Sox have made more plays. Barely. They won Game 5, thanks in part to three hits from first baseman Mike Napoli and a five-out save from closer Koji Uehara. They played terrific defense, scored three runs in the second inning and another in the third. After that, they held on.

The Tigers chipped away, eventually getting it to 4-3 in the seventh, but that was that. After a 7-3 loss in Game 4, the Red Sox bounced back nicely.

"That's why our team can bounce back," Pedroia said. "Everyone stays the same. We understand that sometimes the other team beats you. You just come out tomorrow and try to beat them. That's it."

If Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer can win Game 6 to force a Game 7, the Tigers will have Justin Verlander on the mound. The Red Sox say they understand the challenge in front of them.

"Our guys are well aware of where we are," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "But at the same time, the beauty of them is to not get ahead of themselves, and that will be the case once that first pitch is thrown on Saturday."

Meanwhile, down the hallway at Comerica Park, the Tigers couldn't have seemed more confident. After six months of playing together and accomplishing so much, they believe they're going to be able to write their own ending to this season.

"I like our chances," Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said. "The pressure's on them to hold us back. We're going to go and we're going to fight and we're going to have some fun with it. Whatever happens, we're going to go all out."

His manager spoke from a nearly identical script. The Tigers have been a tough, resilient group, and like the Red Sox, they have a simple approach.

"We have to win one game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "That's obvious. We have to win one game and then take it from there."

If the Tigers can win Game 6, they will have pushed back enough to change the feel of the series. A Game 7 is unlike any other game. Careers are defined by how a player performs in a Game 7. If the Tigers can extend the series to give Verlander one more start, they'll feel good about things.

"We have been here before, down 3-2," Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera said, "and we don't know what's going to happen. We've got to think we can win Saturday. We've got to fight."

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U.

Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers