A pair of division leaders will square off when the Boston Red Sox visit the Detroit Tigers on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series.
The Tigers will hope to fare better against the Red Sox than they did against AL East runner-up Baltimore, which won the three-game series by taking two from Detroit and beating ace Justin Verlander. Despite the back-to-back losses to the Orioles, the Tigers own the best home record in the American League and lead the Central by 3 1/2 games.
Boston was unable to complete a three-game sweep of Tampa Bay but still owns the best overall record in the AL and holds a 1 1/2-game lead over the Orioles atop the East. The Red Sox, always known as a station-to-station team, lead the AL with 58 stolen bases. One area of concern for both clubs is at the back of the bullpen.
Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey has an ERA over 11.00 in his last four appearances while Tigers closer Jose Valverde was used in mop-up duty Wednesday.
TV: 7:08 p.m. ET, New England Sports Network (Boston), Fox Sports Detroit
PITCHING MATCHUP: Red Sox RH John Lackey (4-5, 3.08 ERA) vs. Tigers LH Jose Alvarez (1-0, 1.50)
Lackey appeared on the verge of a first-inning knockout in his last start, but regrouped to limit Baltimore to two runs in seven innings for his first victory in three weeks. He has permitted 10 earned runs in his last six starts in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Lackey is 6-2 lifetime vs. Detroit, including 4-1 in five starts at Comerica Park.
Alvarez was called up from Triple-A Toledo to make a spot start on June 9 and turned in an impressive major-league debut, giving up one run on three hits while striking out seven in a 4-1 victory over Cleveland.
"You certainly had to like his demeanor and his mound presence," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Alvarez will be recalled to make his second start Thursday.
1. Tigers DH Victor Martinez is 10-for-21 lifetime against Lackey.
2. Red Sox DH David Ortiz needs three doubles to reach 500 for his career.
3. Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera became the first player to amass 100 hits and 71 RBIs in his team's first 70 games since Boston Hall of Famer Ted Williams in 1948.