Boston Red Sox (22-14, 1st in AL East, 3rd in IPR) @ Detroit Tigers (15-20, 5th in AL Central, 11th in IPR)
Series Recap: The Sox won the first two games at Comerica Park fairly convincingly, but saw a late lead evaporate Wednesday night.
Last Game: Last night's game was a wild affair which saw the Sox make a great comeback in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings, only to have Jonathan Papelbon surrender the lead in the 9th for a rare blown save.
Template:PitchingMatchupOutlook: The final game of this 4-game series will pit Josh Beckett against Justin Verlander, and you have to like Boston's chances in that matchup. Beckett has pitched very well in his last 4 starts, and is averaging 7-2/3 innings in his last 3 outings. He has a lifetime .684 OPS against Detroit's current lineup, and his unwillingness to issue free passes (just 8 all season for an ISOD of .046) will definitely limit the Tigers' ability to work the count, one of Detroit's greatest strengths offensively. Of course, the Tigers are still a dangerous lineup; they rank 2nd in the league in runs per game & 3rd in slugging, and their RPG in home games is second in the AL only to Boston. Watch out for Magglio Ordonez in particular -- he's a career .348/.415/.578 hitter against the Red Sox, with 14 home runs in 296 AB, and since April 21 he's been hitting a red-hot .344 with 4 HR and 17 RBI. If Beckett can make it 7 or more innings again, though, it will relieve some pressure on a Boston bullpen that has not fared very well this season -- they rank second-to-last in the league in relief ERA. At any rate, Papelbon's blown save last night was his first since September 14, 2007... You don't get many freebies late against the Sox's best relievers, so Detroit should enjoy yesterday's while they can.
Offensively, the Red Sox are rolling, having scored 6 or more runs in 5 of their last 6 games. Last night the lineup supplied 9 runs, as Kevin Youkilis continued his scorching start (.317/.407/.579 so far in 2008) with 2 home runs, and Mike Lowell hit his second dinger since returning from injury. More importantly, David Ortiz looks like he's finally coming around after his horrid 3-for-43 start -- don't look now, but Big Papi has a 6-game hit streak going, during which he's hitting .423 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI. Don't expect the Boston bats to cool much tonight, either: against Verlander, the current Red Sox lineup has a lifetime .899 OPS, although the Tigers' ace did go 7-2/3 innings with only 2 earned runs the last time he faced the Sox (5/15/2007). But to win tonight, Verlander will need to be better than he has been so far in 2008... His 6.28 ERA ranks 46th out of 48 AL starters qualified for the ERA crown, he's walking 4.2 batters per 9 innings, and he has yielded a .251/.349/.413 line despite an overly lucky .261 BABIP. Since a no-decision on opening day, he has lost 5 of his last 6 starts, and has only 1 quality start in 2008. If Verlander doesn't turn things around in a hurry, expect another big offensive outburst by the potent Boston lineup tonight.
SEE ALSO: Baseball-Reference Preview