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Red Sox-Tigers series preview

09.02.13 at 11:28 am ET
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With the calendar flipped and the final month of the MLB season upon us, the Red Sox have an opportunity to flex their muscles and build on their American League East lead with a three-game series vs. the Tigers.

Former Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez has been swinging a hot bat for the Tigers. (AP)

Former Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez has been swinging a hot bat for the Tigers, carrying a 15-game hitting streak into Monday’s series opener at Fenway. (AP)

The best teams in the AL record-wise kick off the series Monday at 1:35 at Fenway Park. The Red Sox (82-56) lead the AL East by 5½ games, while Detroit (80-57) leads the AL Central by 7½ games.

Boston earned its lead with a three-game sweep of the White Sox. The second-place Rays, who entered a three-game series with the Athletics just 2½ games behind the Red Sox, dropped all three games in Oakland.

After tying Boston with a win over the Yankees on Aug. 24, the Rays have lost seven of their last eight games, while Boston has claimed eight of its last nine. The Red Sox’ 5½-game AL East lead is their largest since July 5.

The Tigers find themselves in a familiar position at the start of September. They’re well on their way to winning their third straight AL Central title. With 25 games remaining, Detroit leads Cleveland by 7½ games.

One potential determinant of the series will be the health of the Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera. The reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner missed the last two games with due to issues with his groin and abdomen.

Cabrera is threatening to claim the Triple Crown again, as he leads MLB in batting average (.358) and RBIs (130). His 43 home runs puts him four behind the Orioles’ Chris Davis.

Team president/CEO/general manager Dave Dombrowski, during an interview on Monday’s Dennis & Callahan show, expressed optimism that Cabrera will play at some point in this series, although he was not listed in the team’s starting lineup for the opener.

Two series ago, the Red Sox lucked out in missing Dodgers starters Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke on its West Coast trip.

The Red Sox receive a similar stroke of luck this series in not facing former AL MVP Justin Verlander and current AL ERA leader Anibal Sanchez. Instead, Boston will see a formidable trio in Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

Boston dropped three of four in its only matchup this season with Detroit in mid-June.

Here are the pitching matchups.

Monday: John Lackey (8-11, 3.19 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (11-7, 3.81 ERA)
Tuesday: Jon Lester (12-8, 3.99 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (19-1, 2.90 ERA)
Wednesday: Ryan Dempster (7-9, 4.75 ERA) vs. Rick Porcello (11-7, 4.44 ERA)

WHO’S HOT: RED SOX

Jacoby Ellsbury broke out of a slump with a big series against the Orioles to begin last week. He carried that hot streak into the White Sox series, as the Red Sox center fielder is batting .423 in his past six games. However, Ellsbury left Sunday’s 7-6 win over the White Sox with a hand injury. His removal was precautionary, and Red Sox manager John Farrell said he did not expect him to miss any time.

• The successful experiment of Koji Uehara as a closer continued against Chicago, as he earned a pair of saves. Uehara worked 2 1/3 innings against the White Sox and allowed zero baserunners while striking out three. The 36-year-old’s last earned run came on June 30. Uehara’s mind-boggling stats this season include a 1.17 ERA, a 0.620 WHIP and 83 strikeouts against only nine walks.

David Ortiz spent the past series terrorizing White Sox pitchers. Boston’s designated hitter went 5-for-9 with four walks and one double over the three games. He drove in six runs, including three in the series finale. His big series followed a putrid six-game stretch in which Ortiz failed to register a hit in 24 plate appearances.

WHO’S HOT: TIGERS

• Part of the reason for Detroit’s August surge has been the play of DH Victor Martinez. Martinez, who returned from a torn ACL suffered before last season, is locked into a 15-game hitting streak, and his 44 hits in August led the major leagues. Martinez entered the first Boston series on June 20 hitting .226/.279/.326. He now sits at .298/.352/.419.

• Middle infielders Omar Infante and Jose Iglesias led the way in Detroit’s series with Cleveland. Infante, the team’s second baseman, smacked a pair of home runs and collected five RBIs, in the second game of the series. Iglesias, who was acquired by the Tigers from the Red Sox at the trade deadline to play shortstop in place of the suspended Jhonny Peralta, collected five hits over the three-game series.

• The Tigers added depth in their lineup Sunday by calling up infield prospect Nick Castellanos. The 21st-ranked prospect by both Baseball America and MLB.com will provide depth in the outfield and possibly platoon with lefty-hitting Andy Dirks. Castellanos, always known more for his bat than his glove, hit .276/.343/.450 in 136 games at Triple-A.

WHO’S NOT: RED SOX

Felix Doubront could not escape the fourth inning of his start Sunday, as the White Sox knocked him out after 3 2/3 innings. The lefty allowed seven hits and four runs and did not factor into Boston’s 7-6 victory. Doubront breezed through the first three innings without allowing a run, but he stumbled in the fourth when he allowed five hits and all four runs.

• The Red Sox rapped out 29 hits and 18 runs in the series with Chicago. None of those hits belonged to Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who failed to register a hit in either of his two starts against the White Sox. The switch-hitting catcher is hitless in his last 10 at-bats.

• After showing shaky control in an outing vs. the Orioles, Brandon Workman allowed a run in an inning of relief Sunday. The rookie gave up a pair of hits and walked a batter in 1 1/3 innings of work. His shaky outing comes directly after he walked three batters in a relief appearance against Baltimore.

WHO’S NOT: TIGERS

Joaquin Benoit blew up in the eighth inning of Detroit’s 4-0 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. Mike Aviles broke a 0-0 tie with a grand slam off Benoit, who walked the bases loaded before allowing the dinger. In just one game, Benoit’s ERA jumped from 1.48 to 2.13.

• Fister, Monday’s starter, looks to overcome a poor previous start. Fister allowed 13 hits and seven runs in five innings in a 14-4 loss to Oakland on Wednesday. The righty has allowed eight or more hits in his last four starts.

Justin Verlander turned in a vintage performance Sunday. He threw seven shutout innings with six strikeouts against the Indians. The performance deviated from what’s been a disappointing season for the former AL MVP. Verlander, who averaged a 2.52 ERA and a .987 WHIP in his previous two seasons, sports a pedestrian 3.59 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.

Read More: David Ortiz, Jacoby Ellsbury, jose iglesias, Koji Uehara
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