The Sox had gone undefeated in four straight series before having a fifth slip from their grasp with one out in the ninth inning Sunday afternoon. Now they'll look to start a new run against a Detroit Tigers team that started off their season with an emphatic sweep.
Since then, however, the Tigers have been even worse than the Red Sox, leaving them at the same disappointing 23-24 record as Boston. Despite having a very potent lineup on paper, the Tigers haven't been able to reach the top of the pack in run scoring, and combined with a bipolar rotation backed up by something of an unreliable bullpen, it's led to not nearly so many wins as one would have expected out of this team.
With four games in the series, it's entirely possible that one of these teams leaves above .500, or that they both leave at 25-26. Can one disappointing team defeat the other, or is it going to be mutual misery for a pair of clubs that need to win series rather than split them?
Boston Red Sox (23-24) vs. Detroit Tigers (23-24)
Monday, May 28, 1:35 p.m. EST
Felix Doubront (4-2, 3.96 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (0-2, 1.84 ERA)
Felix Doubront was at his absolute best last time out, putting nine batters away by way of the stirkeout, and allowing just six to reach base in six innings of work. One mistake pitch cost him a home run and, eventually, the loss, but Doubront has been a pleasant surprise for the Red Sox this season, pitching very well if not for very long, as he's managed a 3.96 ERA while averaging under six innings per start.
Doug Fister's groundball tendencies have kept him alive despite the tragic infield defense the Tigers provide him with. It's not clear how long that can last, and the Red Sox have done a good job of hitting low-velocity pitchers like Fister, but he's basically the best of the best when it comes to getting by without a big arm, and there's no questioning his results.
Tuesday, May 29, 7:10 p.m. EST
Daniel Bard (4-5, 4.69 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (5-2, 2.15 ERA)
Daniel Bard has been struggling badly in May. Still unable to place his fastball even with dramatically decreased velocity, the only thing that remains of the Daniel Bard of old is the mean break on his slider. He managed to avoid taking too much damage in his last start, but there's no reason to expect him to do the same against the Tigers if he can't get his heater under control.
Justin Verlander, on the other hand, is an absolute monster who it's surprising to see allows any runs at all. Frankly, this game is something of a punt.
Wednesday, May 30, 7:10 p.m. EST
Jon Lester (3-4, 4.72 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (2-1, 3.14 ERA)
Jon Lester encountered a small strike zone last time out, and allowed himself to be completely ruined by it, falling behind batters and giving up gifts over the middle when the count wasn't in his favor. He's been on something of a downward trend for months now, albeit a slight one. And while it's true that it's not unusual for him to struggle out of the gate, it's getting awfully late for Lester to be offering up 7 runs in a short outing.
Despite being in professional baseball for less than two years' time and not really playing in Triple-A, Drew Smyly has had no problems in the majors so far. The Red Sox could pose an interesting problem for Smyly, however, as his game relies on a fastball setting up a strong slider. The Sox, no slouches against the fastball themselves, happen to be the best in the game at hitting sliders.
Thursday, May 31, 7:10 p.m. EST
NESN/MLB Network, WEEI
Josh Beckett (4-4, 4.15 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (4-3, 5.67 ERA)
When he's not giving up seven runs, Josh Beckett seems to be one of the best starters in the game, allowing just three runs over his last 21.2 innings. Still, this productivity has come against some fairly weak lineups--nothing like the bunch the Tigers will throw at him on Thursday. It was the Tigers who gave Beckett his first 7-run disaster back in the second game of the season. Hopefully he'll be angry Josh Beckett today, out for revenge and throwing fire.
If there's one thing you can be sure of with Max Scherzer, it's that he will allow some runs. The only question is how many? Scherzer has not one run-free game despite making ten starts, and has only once held his opponent to just the one. Still, mixed in there are only a few bad games, with one real disaster. Said disaster came opposite Josh Beckett in that second game of the season, allowing seven of his own to come across in 2.2 innings.