Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Boston Red Sox
The Tigers head to Boston with the chance to really make a statement against the best league in baseball. With a solid week against the Red Sox, Detroit can bounce back from two lost series, and separate itself from most of the A.L. Central. But they’ll have to go through a Boston team that beat up on them during the last pass through Fenway, and a Boston team that is significantly better than that former team, with the returns of Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Carl Crawford to the lineup. But the Tigers’ bats have been alive and kicking for the entirety of the second half, and Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are always showing why they certainly compete for the best three-four combination in all of baseball. But who will take this series?
Monday – 7/30/12
Max Scherzer vs. Clay Buchholz
Max turned in another awesome performance in Cleveland five days ago. Going seven innings with only three hits and two earned runs was more than enough of an effort to earn a win. That gives him 10 for the season, and he’ll be looking to notch himself even with Verlander at 11 in the first game of the series. Of course that’ll be easier said than done, especially since he has a 9.82 ERA against the Red Sox in his career. That will not end well, even though most of the big bats in the Sox’s lineup have low to no hits against him. Most of the damage likely came from players no longer with the team (Kevin Youkilis comes to mind).
Buchholz has significantly turned his season around, and is getting some real run support from the team. His ERA is just under five, which bodes well for the Tigers to put up some runs at least. Unfortunately, his ERA against Detroit is 3.83, which means Scherzer will have to pitch the game of his life in order to keep the Tigers in it.
Tuesday – 7/31/12
Justin Verlander vs. Josh Beckett
Verlander was cruising in his last start against the Indians. Then somewhere late in the game, he just lost it. He stopped commanding his pitches, left balls well over the plate, and before anyone could figure out what the hell happened, the Tribe had taken the lead, and Justin was saddled with the loss. It was a very uncharacteristic start for Verlander, who wants nothing more than to beat Boston today. Earlier this season, Verlander had to learn the hard way exactly why he stopped being a “thrower” and started being a “pitcher”. The last time the Tigers were at Fenway, J.V. got to a point late in the game where he was simply throwing as hard as he could. Several Red Sox’s players turned on 100 m.p.h. fastballs and scorched them off the green monster. It doesn’t take much to hit a ball that fast if you know it’s coming, and you can get your bat out quickly enough. So that’s exactly what Justin has to avoid this time around. At the very least, his career ERA against the Red Sox is respectable at 3.22, so Detroit will at the very least stand a chance of staying competitive.
Josh Beckett is having a tough time this season, with an ERA just over 4.50. He’s getting next to no run support, though, which has left him at 5-9. He’s been off as of late, though, with an ERA over five. He’s been moderately successful against Detroit, though, with a 3.86 ERA. However, the offense seems to go on vacation whenever he pitches against them, with a 3-4 record. He’ll have to hope the bats light up, because even though he’s successfully kept Miguel Cabrera as a non-threat, others could easily pick it up.
Wednesday – 8/1/12
Rick Porcello vs. Aaron Cook
Rick Porcello, after being a star two starts ago, turned in a performance worth forgetting in his last start. He’d love to get back on track in the series finale … but the Red Sox may have something to say about that. In his career, Porcello has only managed 8 1/3 innings against Boston, and he has a 10.80 ERA. That’s not even close to what you want when you’re looking for a win in a big game on the road. This is especially true now that Jacoby Ellsbury is back with the team. Ellsbury is a perfect 5/5 against Porcello, with a home run. Things could get very hairy very quickly for Rick as the game progresses, and so Scherzer and Verlander need to make sure that the bullpen is rested and ready to pick up the slack in the likely event that Porcello can only make it through three innings.
Aaron Cook has been weak lately, too, with an ERA of 4.67. He hasn’t seen a win in that time, and he’s looking to rebound and reset for the final two months of the season. He’s only pitched six innings against the Tigers, so he has an element of surprise to his game, but he also has an ERA of six in those six innings. Which means that someone has figured him out. Many of the Tigers’ hitters have only had a couple of at-bats against him, but it didn’t take them long to make adjustments and put up some RBIs.
Game 1: Red Sox
Game 2: Tigers
Game 3: Tigers
Given Scherzer’s career numbers, it’s highly unlikely that the Tigers can dig themselves out of this game. Despite having a hiccup in his last start, and his earlier hiccup against the Red Sox, betting against Verlander is always a mistake, especially since Beckett hasn’t been great. As for Game Three, it’s a tossup at best. Porcello hasn’t been great against the Red Sox, but he also hasn’t had much experience. Part of that experience came several years ago, and he’s definitely a better pitcher now than two years ago. With Cook’s recent struggles, I think the Tigers can take the win and end the road trip with an almost even record.