It’s a battle of the second-placed teams in the American League as the Detroit Tigers travel to the iconic Fenway Park to take on the Boston Red Sox in a three-game series starting today (Game 1: 7.10pm ET Monday).
After entering the All-Star break just a few games back of the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the AL East, the Red Sox have continued to excel in the final weeks of July. Always a strong team in front of the Fenway Faithful (34-22 this season), the Red Sox are in the middle of a home stand which saw them split a four-game series against the Minnesota Twins. Even more impressively, they swept a two-game series against the San Francisco Giants, the team with the best record in baseball. Currently, the Red Sox are just 1.5 games from first place and picking up yet another series win at home could tip the scales in their favor.
The Tigers find themselves in more of a precarious situation as they are six games back of the Cleveland Indians for first place in the AL Central. A decent road team (25-29), the Tigers enter into a tough environment taking on the Red Sox at home and even taking on the team period. In the wildcard standings, a place both these teams currently sit, Boston holds a few games advantage.
It could come down to those two wildcard teams or we could see both get hot and find themselves atop their divisions, which would not be foreign to the two former pennant winners. Either way, this series will do a lot to determine which team is headed toward success and which might be faltering in the midst of an inopportune time.
Game 1: (DET) Justin Verlander vs (BOS) Drew Pomeranz
Taking the mound for the Tigers in the all-important Game 1 is the former Cy Young award winner and AL MVP, Justin Verlander (pictured). In his 11th season, Verlander has had his ups and down ever since the 2011 season that saw him achieve the Triple Crown and become one of just a handful of pitchers to win both the Cy Young and MVP award. Just three years later in 2014, it was Verlander’s worst since 2008.
Last season also had the makings of a less than stellar year for the veteran righty, however in a game against the Red Sox a year ago, he pitched eight innings allowing just one run. Since that time, Verlander is 14-11 with a 3.11 ERA and 230 strikeouts in 231.2 innings pitched. In his last three starts, Verlander has recaptured his old form, posting just a 1.74 ERA and 24 strikeouts in just over 20 innings pitched.
Opposite him on the mound will be Drew Pomeranz. A five-year veteran lefty, Pomeranz spent his early career years with the Colorado Rockies before moving on to the Oakland Athletics and finally the San Diego Padres. Traded just a month ago from the Padres, Pomeranz will be making just his second start in a Red Sox uniform. In his first, he allowed five runs, two home runs, on eight hits.
The advantage here obviously goes to Verlander, even with David Ortiz batting .545 against him in his last 11 at-bats. The Red Sox DH will no doubt be a tough out, especially with how well he has been playing this year (.332 AVG, 24 HR, 81 RBI, .423 OBP). But beyond that, Verlander has had success against this line-up and has had success over the years when playing at Fenway. All things considered, the pitching match-up favors Verlander and since so much in baseball is about the pitching.
Our Game 1 betting picks, for both winner and the total runs spread, are concluded at the bottom of this MLB preview.
Game 2: (DET) Mike Pelfrey vs (BOS) Steven Wright
The second game of this series sees another Detroit veteran, Mike Pelfrey, taking the mound opposite the All-Star knuckleballer, Steven Wright.
A 10-year veteran who spent the majority of his career with the New York Mets, Pelfrey has not been having his best year in this his first with the Tigers. He has made 19 starts and is currently posting his highest ERA and WHIP in two years. His last outing however, was one of his best of the year, allowing just one run to the Chicago White Sox in 5.1 innings pitched. Last year, he tossed yet another solid outing against the Red Sox, allowing just one run in seven innings at Fenway Park.
The Red Sox will look to Wright, who has been incredibly successful this year. The knuckleballer has just three years in the league, all of which have been with Boston. However, this is his first season that he has been a fulltime starter and he has done nothing but make the most of his opportunity. Wright is 12-5 on the year, including a near-perfect 7-1 at Fenway Park. However, despite being 3-0 in his last three starts, Wright has a 4.05 ERA and most of Detroit’s hitters, albeit in limited at-bats, have done well against him.
Game 3: (DET) Michael Fulmer vs (BOS) Eduardo Rodriguez
It’s the young guns on the mound in Game 3 as the rookie Michael Fulmer takes on the sophomore hurler Eduardo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez is finally back to being the pitcher Boston had hoped for since returning from Triple-A recently. He has allowed just three runs over the last 12.1 innings. Last season, he pitched against the Tigers once and held them to just one run over seven strong innings.
Fulmer meanwhile is coming off of a rough outing against the White Sox in which he allowed four runs early and lasted just a few innings. In his last two starts before that, Fulmer went a total of 14 innings and allowed just two runs. Not to mention in a slightly larger sample size, Fulmer is 5-1 since June and has posted a sub 2.50 ERA in July and an even more impressive 0.61 ERA in June.
Fulmer has the advantage in this head-to-head as not only has he been a top pitcher for the Red Sox, but he has been one of the best rookie pitchers this year. He could be headed toward the Rookie of the Year if his top performances continue. Take Detroit to win game 3 and take the 2-1 series win overall.
Tigers at Red Sox: Our Preview’s Game 1 Betting Picks
With limited opportunities to wager on the series result, our preview’s betting picks for Game 1 are: