BOSTON RED SOX
at DETROIT TIGERS
First pitch: Sunday, 8:10 p.m. ET
Two of the most prolific teams in baseball, the Red Sox and Tigers, finish off their three-game series on Sunday night.
Boston has been a very streaky team this year and has lost its past three games coming into this series after winning its previous seven. The three defeats came in a sweep at the hands of the Indians, as the club was outscored 15-9. The Sox did go into extra innings in Wednesday’s defeat though, losing by a score of 7-4 after allowing a big three-run shot in the bottom of the 12th inning. SS Xander Bogaerts (.297 BA) has turned it on of late, going 15-for-40 (.375) with five doubles, two homers and nine runs over his past nine games. Detroit is also struggling, losing its past five games, including a sweep by the AL East-leading Blue Jays. Toronto thoroughly dominated the Tigers, outscoring them 20-8 in the three-game set. OF Torii Hunter (.260 BA) really struggled in the series, going hitless in 11 at-bats and has seen his average drop 18 points over the past 10 games. Toeing the rubber for Boston in this one will be veteran RHP John Lackey (6-4, 3.28 ERA) as he goes head-to-head with Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 2.15 ERA). Coming into this series, the Red Sox have gone just 12-15 on the road and will go up against a Tigers team that is just 14-14 at Comerica Park. This has been a rather even matchup over the past three seasons with Detroit holding a slight 14-12 edge overall, which includes an impressive 7-3 record in home meetings entering Friday.
John Lackey has continued his resurgence this season by striking out the most batters (8.0 K/9) since 2005. He has also continued with some phenomenal control, walking 1.8 BB/9 this year and allowing only seven homers in 79.2 frames (0.79 HR/9). He has given up a total of just three runs over his past three starts (21.1 IP) with all of the runs coming against the Indians in his last outing on Monday. In that game, he earned a loss while giving up eight hits and two walks while striking out three. Lackey has gone 6-4 in 13 starts against the Tigers in his career with a 4.14 ERA and 1.37 WHIP, while giving up 10 home runs in 87 innings. Miguel Cabrera (6-for-15, 2 HR, 4 RBI) and 2B Ian Kinsler (16-for-38, 2 doubles, 1 triple, 4 HR, 9 RBI) have enjoyed tremendous success against Lackey while C Alex Avila is just 1-for-9 with three strikeouts in the matchup. Entering Friday, Boston’s relievers have combined to go 9-11 with a 2.81 ERA and 1.24 WHIP while saving 13-of-17 (77%) games. Closer Koji Uehara (0.70 ERA, 11 saves) has pitched out of his mind this year with a 36:4 K/BB ratio in 25.2 innings while going a perfect 11-for-11 in save opportunities through Thursday.
Anibal Sanchez is coming off three consecutive starts where he tossed at least seven innings while allowing two or fewer runs. He earned a no-decision in his last outing against the Blue Jays on Tuesday despite pitching a phenomenal game (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K’s) and now has 19 strikeouts to just one walk in these past three starts (22.1 IP). Sanchez has struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings this year and has benefited from batters hitting .229 BABIP against him. He has faced the Red Sox only twice in his career, once as a starter and once out of the bullpen, and is 1-0 with a 7.71 ERA and 1.93 WHIP while allowing three home runs in just 9.1 frames. In limited at-bats against Sanchez, DH David Ortiz is 3-for-4 with two homers and 4 RBI, while backup catcher David Ross may not see the field, as he is just 2-for-11 with three strikeouts in the matchup. The Tigers’ bullpen has not done well this year at 7-8 with a 4.74 ERA and 1.35 WHIP while going 16-for-22 (73%) in save chances coming into this series. Their relievers have also been much worse when pitching at home with a 6.17 ERA and 1.55 WHIP through Thursday. Closer Joe Nathan (6.86 ERA, 13 saves) is 13-for-17 in his save opportunities this year and has already given up four home runs while walking 11 in just 21 innings of work entering this series.