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At the start of the season, it basically was a matter of who the Detroit Tigers -- last year’s AL pennant winner -- would face in this year’s league championship series.

Would it be the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim rebounding from their bad start in 2012? Would the new-look Toronto Blue Jays who spent tons of money reach the Promised Land? Would the Texas Rangers get back to the ALCS after going to the World Series in 2010 and 2011?

Jacoby Ellsbury in action
Photo by Keith Allision, used under creative commons license.

All these teams looked good on paper, but the Boston Red Sox showed up where it counted: on the field.

We’re in store for a real treat in this Tigers vs. Red Sox ALCS. These are two classic teams -- and former division rivals -- fighting for AL glory.

I wrote earlier this season that the Red Sox had the tools to challenge the Tigers for supremacy in the AL. All the hype was on Miguel Cabrera abusing opposing pitchers and Max Scherzer tearing up the league. But very methodically and without too much fanfare on at least the national stage, the Red Sox simply got the job done in all aspects of the game.

When comparing these two teams on paper, they are extremely similar. Both have great starting pitching, clutch bullpens and lineups that do not have any holes.

The Tigers may have a slight advantage in the starting pitching category, especially after Justin Verlander’s dominant Game 5 ALDS performance. But no offense to the Oakland A’s -- Boston’s lineup is so much better.

In the bullpen, I’d give the edge to the Red Sox. Koji Uehara has been unhittable at times, and Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa have been clutch. Ryan Dempster has pitched out of the bullpen for the Sox in the playoffs, so his experience can go a long way in a big spot.

Offensively, that Tigers’ batting order is just stacked. It’s full of stars who still produce in the playoffs. Just look at Cabrera. He’s been dealing with groin, hip and abdominal injuries for months, yet with the season on the line in Game 5, he launched a two-run homer that wound up being the difference in the series.

Throw in Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez, Torii Hunter and Jhonny Peralta, and that lineup can match up against any pitcher.

Unlike the Tigers, the Red Sox lineup relies on balance. It may not contain the huge names like Cabrera or Fielder, but many of these guys have significant postseason experience, and it showed against the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS.

David Ortiz continues to amaze. He’s the only piece left from Boston’s 2004 miraculous run to the World Series, and he must still think it’s 10 years ago based on his production.

After Big Papi, the Red Sox rely on guys who simply play the game the right way and have been producing all year. Dustin Pedroia, Shane Victorino, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mike Napoli will have to continue showing up for the Red Sox to make a statement in this series.

With these teams so evenly matched, a seven-game series seems likely. October success always comes down to pitching, so the team with Verlander and Scherzer might have the overall advantage.

But in baseball, the will to win can also dictate a series, and while the Tigers do not lack this will, it’s incredibly strong with the Red Sox.

I’m taking Boston to win the series in seven games.