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Thursday’s Red Sox-Tigers matchups: Josh Beckett vs. Max Scherzer

05.31.12 at 9:13 am ET
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Lost in the controversy around his golf outing, sore back and some leftover hard feelings from last September is the fact that Josh Beckett (4-3) has largely been fantastic this season.

Save for two bad outings — his first of the year and his first returning from the sore lat muscle — the much-maligned righty has allowed just 12 earned runs in 49 1/3 innings (which translates to a 2.19 ERA). What’€™s more, he’€™s given up only two home runs in that stretch while recording 40 strikeouts and just 12 walks.

Unfortunately for Beckett and the Sox, when he’€™s been off, the results have been equally eyebrow-raising. In those two bad starts, Beckett gave up a combined 14 earned runs and seven homers in just seven total innings.

When he was pounded by the Indians on May 10 — a 2 1/3-inning, seven run embarrassment — many fans and media members felt his value in a Red Sox uniform had run its course. Since that outing, however, Beckett has responded with three of his finest performances of the season. Beginning with his ensuing start on May 15, which happens to have been his 32nd birthday, Beckett went at least seven innings in each game, allowing a total of three earned runs with 19 strikeouts and just four walks. Most importantly, the Sox have won all three games.

And while the sample size drops to just four games when excluding the May 10 disaster against Cleveland, its worth noting that Beckett has otherwise been outstanding at Fenway, going at least seven innings in all four outings and allowing just four earned runs total.

Thursday will be Beckett’€™s second start against the Tigers this season, and Sox fans are hoping the home field advantage will help it go better than the first. Back on April 7, Beckett allowed seven earned runs, including five homers, in just 4 2/3 innings en route to a 10-0 blowout loss in Detroit.

Overall though, Beckett has fared much better against the Tigers, who are hitting .237 in 97 at-bats against the three-time All-Star. New Tiger Prince Fielder, however, has had tremendous success against Beckett, with three home runs in just six at-bats. Alex Avila (.375 BA/.444 OBP/.750 SLG) and Delmon Young (.353/.389/.529) have hit him well.

Taking the mound Thursday for Detroit will be Max Scherzer. The 27-year-old enters Thursday’€™s game with a 4-3 record and 5.67 ERA.

Scherzer has had at least nine strikeouts in four of his last five starts, including a 15-strikeout performance against Pittsburgh on May 20, but he’€™s also given up seven home runs in that stretch. As his 72 strikeouts vs. just 19 walks suggests, Scherzer throws a lot of strikes and gets a lot of K’s, but his penchant for keeping the ball over the plate has also lead to 64 hits in just 54 innings this season.

After giving up 21 earned runs in 24 innings in April, the righty has been steadily improving, allowing 13 earned runs in just shy of 30 innings in May. Continuing that trend against Boston may be a difficult task, however. Entering Wednesday’s game, Boston was third in the majors in nearly every major offensive category, including runs, hits, batting average, total bases, RBIs and slugging percentage.

Scherzer also has struggled against the Sox, who are hitting .338 in 65 at-bats against him. David Ortiz, in particular, has owned Scherzer, with six hits, including two home runs and a double, along with five RBIs in just eight at-bats. Scott Podsednik (3-for-7 with two walks) and Mike Aviles (3-for-7 with a double and three RBIs) have also fared well against Scherzer.

On April 8, in his only other start against the Sox this year, Scherzer was chased after just 2 2/3 innings, giving up seven earned runs on eight hits and two walks. The Tigers, however, went on to win 13-12.

Tigers vs. Beckett (RHP)

Jhonny Peralta (20 plate appearances): .235 BA/.350 OBP/.294 SLG, 1 double, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts

Delmon Young (18): .353/.389/.529, 3 doubles, 1 RBI, 3 strikeouts

Miguel Cabrera (15): .214/.267/.643, 2 home runs, 4 RBIs, 3 strikeouts

Alex Avila (9): .375/.444/.750, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

Brennan Boesch (9): .111/.111/.222, 1 double, 1 RBI

Andy Dirks (8): .143/.250/.143, 1 RBI, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts

Gerald Laird (7): .167/.286/.167, 3 strikeouts

Prince Fielder (6): .500/.500/2.000, 3 home runs, 3 RBIs, 2 strikeouts

Ramon Santiago (6): .167/.167/.167, 1 RBI

Don Kelly (3): .000/.000/.000

Danny Worth (3): .000/.333/.000, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Ryan Raburn (2): .000/.000/.000, 1 strikeout

Red Sox vs. Scherzer (RHP)

Adrian Gonzalez (13 plate appearances): .182 BA/.308 OBP/.182 SLG, 1 RBI, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts

David Ortiz (9): .750/.778/1.625, 2 home runs, 1 double, 5 RBIs, 1 walk, 1 strikeout

Scott Podsednik (9): .429/.556/.429, 3 singles, 2 walks

Kevin Youkilis (8): .286/.375/.429, 1 double, 1 walk

Mike Aviles (7): .429/.429/.571, 1 double, 3 RBIs, 1 strikeout

Dustin Pedroia (7): .286/.286/.714, 1 home run, 2 RBIs, 1 strikeouts

Nick Punto (5): .000/.200/.000, 1 RBI, 1 walk

Ryan Sweeney (5): .200/.200/.200, 2 strikeouts

Kelly Shoppach (4): .000/.500/.000, 2 strikeouts

Marlon Byrd (3): .500/.667/1.000, 1 double, 1 RBI, 1 strikeout

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (3): .667/.667/.677, 2 singles, 1 strikeout

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