The Boston Red Sox plunge into Comerica Park in Detroit this weekend on a roller coaster ride: a ten-game slide, a seven-game winning streak, then the broomstick treatment in Cleveland. Their struggles have been well-documented.
They will be greeted by a Detroit Tigers team that has lost five in a row and 13 of 17.
Something’s gotta give.
Two weeks back, the Tigers embarrassed the Red Sox at Fenway, sweeping a three-game series and holding Boston to three runs over the weekend. To celebrate their success, they donned tiger stripe pajamas and “Turn Down For What” t-shirts and plastered their hijinks all over Twitter. The Indians promptly turned down the Tigers with a three-game sweep. The team hasn’t been the same since.
BSI: The last time the teams met, the Tigers totally outplayed the Sox and sent them further down the road on a 10-game losing streak. Since then, the Tigers have had a slump of their own. What’s going on?
MCB: The Tigers were riding high at 27-12 after that series in Boston. They had swept the Red Sox in Fenway for the first time since 1983, started 6-0 on their road trip, and were going in to play the then-last place Cleveland Indians. They felt a bit cocky and posed for pictures in tiger striped Zubaz outfits and they’ve gone 4-13 since. Call it the Curse of the Zubaz if you want, but the Tigers just have seemingly forgotten how to win. The starting pitching, supposedly the strength of the team, has failed miserably lately (except for Anibal Sanchez). The defense has been shaky and the offense has been awful. No one outside of Kinsler, Miggy, and V-Mart are getting on base.
If you asked a Tigers’ fan what they were most concerned about heading into this season, it was the bullpen and offense. So far those two facets of the game have justified the fears. No one could have foreseen the struggles of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, however.
MCB: I’m not sure we will know how Suarez is doing for awhile. He’s been tearing the cover off the ball in AA and AAA this season, but the Tigers understand he’s a rookie and will have his share of hiccups. I was an early supporter of Andrew Romine. No one expected him to hit much, but he had been doing well defensively—not so much anymore. He misplayed a ball in the opening game against Toronto that allowed the first run to score and then the flood gates opened in that game.
The Tigers will likely give Suarez about a month to see how he’s doing and if he is not faring any better than Romine, Dave Dombrowski will look for some help at the trading deadline.
BSI: The Tigers signed Joe Nathan to bring stability to the back of the bullpen. Given Nathan’s struggles, is there anyone else you’d trust with the ninth inning role? Or do you have to stick with the 39-year old closer on the two-year, $20 million deal?
MCB: The Tigers are stuck with Nathan. They won’t eat that salary and they really have no other options. Joba Chamberlain and Ian Krol have been the only bright spots in the dumpster fire that is the Detroit Tigers bullpen.
Chamberlain could close, but then who takes his spot as set-up man? Nathan? No one can be trusted in the eighth or ninth aside from Joba at this time. That may change once former Red Sox Joel Hanrahan is healthy, but no one really knows when that will happen. The Tigers have no other choice than to let Nathan work through his troubles as the team’s closer.
BSI: The Red Sox are the World Series champs, but they’re really scuffling right now. Does this team scare you at all?
MCB: One thing that struck me about this year’s version of the Red Sox is that their lineup, outside Big Papi, doesn’t have anyone that really scares me. The Tigers have seen 3/5 of the AL East this season and it looks like the Blue Jays are easily the class of that division. That lineup cannot be stopped, the starting pitching is improving every game, and the Toronto team that was picked to win it all last year looks like it’s finally coming together. That said, I would never discount the Red Sox. No one expected them to win it all last year and that’s exactly what happened. If they can’t catch Toronto, I imagine they’ll still be in the hunt for a Wild Card spot.
Rubby De La Rosa (1-0, 0.00) looks to play the stopper in his second start for Boston against Drew Smyly (2-4, 4.10) in the Friday night opener at 7:08 PM. In Saturday night’s tilt, Jon Lester (6-6, 3.15) takes on Max Scherzer (6-2, 3.20) at 7:15 PM. The series wraps up with Sunday Night Baseball as John Lackey (6-4, 3.28) counters Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 2.15) at 8:05 PM.