Is this weekend the last time we see the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers on the same field in 2014, or will Boston mount a comeback in the AL East while Detroit holds on to win the AL Central, and set up a playoff meeting come October?
Then again, maybe neither team deserves a trip to the postseason considering the way they're both playing right now.
Someone has to win each of these three games, however, and the set gets underway Friday in Detroit at 7:08 PM (ET) with Rubby De La Rosa and Drew Smyly for our initial mound matchup. The Tigers are listed in the low -120s on SBR's live MLB odds, along with 8 for the total. Friday's lid-lifter is the 2,000th regular season meeting between the old rivals, the Red Sox owning a 1,026-960 advantage with 13 more games ending in a tie. It's also the second and final series on the 2014 slate after the Tigers swept a set in Boston three weekends ago. All three games a few weeks ago at Fenway stayed 'under' the mark, but 'over' has been the way to go recently in Detroit. Tiger backers and 'over' bettors cashed three of four at Comerica Park last season, leaving high-side wagers 5-1 the last six on this diamond.
Tribe Sweep Sox To Start Boston Trip
Boston (27-32, -11.3 units, 23-34-2 O/U/P) is hopeful the second stop on this 3-city trip goes a lot better than the first. The Red Sox were broomed out of Cleveland on Wednesday, losing the finale of that set 7-4 in 12 innings to drop 5-games below .500 and begin this weekend series nine games out of first in the AL East.
This trip was preceded by a 7-game win streak that included series sweeps over the Braves and Rays, and manager John Farrell will now turn to De La Rosa to get the Sox back on track. The Dominican was promoted from Triple-A Pawtucket last week when Clay Buchholz (knee) went on the DL, and made an immediate impact in his season debut vs. Tampa Bay. De La Rosa worked seven scoreless frames in the 7-1 win, not allowing a walk, and striking out eight Rays along the way. Friday will be his first appearance at Comerica, and only the second time De La Rosa has faced the Tigers after a short relief outing against them last September.
Tigers Slipping, Verlander Proving Human
A big question in Detroit (31-25, -3.5 units, 28-25-3 O/U/P) is what's wrong with Justin Verlander. The former Cy Young, and MVP dropped his third start in four trips to the mound on Thursday, a 7-3 loss to the Blue Jays who completed a sweep in Motown, and handed the Tigers their 5th-straight defeat. Verlander's ERA is up over 4.00, and his strikeouts are down with his next expected start coming Tuesday against the White Sox in Chicago.
Smyly earned the No. 5 job in Detroit's rotation after a decent spring (6 starts, 3.80 ERA), and he hasn't pitched as poorly as his 2-4 record might indicate. Still, the bottom line is the Tigers sit 2-6 in his eight starts to date, losing his last three assignments along with all three starts at home. The Little Rock native didn't face the Red Sox in Boston a few weeks ago after seeing them four times in the ALCS last year, all out of the 'pen.
Smyly's lone start vs. the Sox came just over two years ago in Boston, the lefty taking a no-decision of a 6-4 Tigers loss with six innings of work and four runs allowed.
The weather should cooperate for the entire series, though SBR doppler is noting a slight chance for showers in Sunday's finale. Friday's first pitch should find the thermometer in the mid-70s, a few clouds drifting by and a light SE breeze (in from left). It's difficult to come up with a reason to back either team in their current forms, so I'm thinking the 'under' is the way to go with my free MLB pick in Game 1.
My Free MLB pick: Red Sox-Tigers 'Under' 8 (+100)
Season: 59-55 (+3.40)