The Red Sox will welcome the Tigers into Fenway Park as they wrap up the three week gauntlet set before them to start the second half of the season.
Entering the All-Star Break at .500, the Sox have budged not an inch over series against the Rays, White Sox, Blue Jays, Rangers, and Yankees, going 8-8 in the first 16 games. Now they face one game which will leave them either above or below .500 at the trade deadline.
Frankly, though, neither will be a pretty mark. Though the Sox got off to a strong 5-2 start, and managed to take out the Yankees in New York, the lost series against the Blue Jays really overpowers the rest of the story--a wasted opportunity which has left the Sox in a disappointing position, and one that makes it hard to justify adding to the team with trades.
If that's the case, than that leaves just one thing for the Red Sox to do: win. If this team really is better than its record shows, it's time to start proving it. It's probably too late for the front office to be persuaded to buy--any big deal they made to improve just this team would actually be a pretty terrible bit of decision making. But there's certainly no cost to trying for this current team as assembled. So long as the Sox have games to play, they may as well win them.
Boston Red Sox (51-51) Vs. Detroit Tigers (54-48)
Monday, July 30, 7:10 p.m. EST
Clay Buchholz (8-3, 4.93 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (10-5, 4.49 ERA)
Clay Buchholz finally has his ERA down under 5.00, and it's well-deserved after two months of more-or-less impressive pitching. He's at his best right now, tearing through the White Sox and Rangers back-to-back, which actually leaves the Tigers as very reasonable opposition. The last time he faced them, back in the third game of the year, Detroit was able to pick up seven runs in four innings, but this is a very different Buchholz.
Max Scherzer has been on just about the exact same path as Buchholz, right down to two strong outings against two solid lineups in the Indians and Angels. Scherzer continues to have period where he will struggle with control, however, and seems to be in one of those runs now. It would be wise for the Sox to be patient and let him shoot himself in the foot when his control flees, but that hasn't necessarily been the lineup's M.O. this season.
Tuesday, July 31, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Josh Beckett 5-9, 4.57 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (11-6, 2.60 ERA)
Josh Beckett is currently listed as the starter for Tuesday, but it's no guarantee that he'll so much as be with the team when this game actually starts. The center of many trade rumors, it seems like the Sox are trying hard to deal Beckett, with the Braves, Dodgers, and Rangers all potentially interested parties. The problem is that his value is awfully low now, struggling through another down year as he is, and the Sox might not be interested in making a deal from a position of weakness.
Either way, it's a negative run that doesn't bode well against the likes of Justin Verlander. The reigning American League MVP is coming off a bad start against the Indians, and the Red Sox have taken advantage of him before this year, but between his overpowering heat and devastating curveball, it's hard to ever feel comfortable going into a game against Verlander.
Wednesday, August 1, 7:10 p.m. EST
Aaron Cook (2-4, 4.50 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (7-6, 4.56 ERA)
Even after a disaster outing against the Yankees, Aaron Cook is still looking pretty average, which is about all the Red Sox can ask for. He'll need to keep his sinker down against the Tigers, however, because they've got the power to make him pay like the Yankees did.
Rick Porcello continues to be consistently inconsistent, bouncing back and forth between good and bad starts with nary a streak of results either way. You can call this one a coin flip, because it's seemingly impossible to find a pattern with his results. Good one week, maybe two, bad the next, against good teams or bad, home or away, he's just plain unpredictable.