Cleveland, OH, USA: Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USPRESSWIRE
The last time the Red Sox faced the Tigers, Detroit looked like an unstoppable juggernaut in basically every facet of the game. Of course, anyone can look like that in a three-game series, as it it's just enough time for a team to see everything work, and too little for any unsightly blemishes to become all you can see. Boston, on the other hand, looked very stoppable in that opening weekend series, but now, nearly two months later, the two clubs have the exact same record at 23-24.
Detroit's defense has failed them, as it was expected to from the moment it was announced that both Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder would don gloves 150 times or more in 2012. (Not to mention this team also has Jhonny Peralta, Ryan Raburn, and others whose gloves are tolerated thanks to their bats.) What has also been a problem, though, is that this lineup -- one designed to mash, mash, and mash some more in between displaying a lack of range and hands of stone -- has been just league-average offensively to this point.
Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera have both been productive, but not in the way they can be (or more importantly, need to be). Alex Avila hasn't looked like the 2011 version of himself just yet, Raburn is seeing just how terrible you can be in the first half before a second-half-surge can't save your numbers, Peralta has gone back to the version of him that doesn't hit for power. Andy Dirks, as someone who has been hitting, has worked his way into the lineup, and Austin Jackson looks like he's finally breaking out. Other than that, the lineup is made of up disappointment to this point.
Game 1: Doug Fister (29-1/3 IP, 3.1 K/BB, 223 ERA+) vs. Felix Doubront (50 IP, 2.3 K/BB, 106 ERA+)
Game 4: Max Scherzer (54 IP, 3.8 K/BB, 72 ERA+) vs. Josh Beckett (56-1/3 IP, 3.0 K/BB, 101 ERA+)
Doug Fister's season has already been shortened by injury, but you wouldn't know it by the way he was pitching. This is likely the best pitching match-up of the series, given the way Felix Doubront has been missing bats and Fister has found the strike zone.
Tuesday's game might turn out to be depressing, as it's an unstoppable force vs. immovable object scenario. The Red Sox can hit, but Justin Verlander is a likely candidate for Best Pitcher In Baseball. Something has to give, and with the way Verlander has been pitching, it's hard to imagine it's going to be him. Not that it can't be, but you might want to save your well-wishes for Jon Lester in Wednesday's contest, and let the wheel of ka turn as it will while Verlander's atop the mound.
Lester's opponent, Drew Smyly, is a 23-year-old rookie selected in the second round of the 2010 draft. His professional debut came in 2011, and after just 127 innings in the minors, he's pitching like someone set to stay in the majors for good. He dominated Double-A in his short time there, and while his even shorter stint at Triple-A wasn't impressive, you can see for yourself what he's done in his nearly 50 innings against major-league competition. It's early yet, both in his career and his inaugural season, but the signs have been good.
Boston will once again attempt to climb over .500, but unless they figure out a way to solve Verlander -- even if it's just limiting him to seven innings so that the bullpen can meet the Red Sox lineup -- then the road there will be a tough one against a Tigers' club that's better than their record. Then again, anyone can look unstoppable in a single series, something both of these teams know well already this year.