Game 57 Preview: Red Sox at Tigers

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers swept the Red Sox three weeks ago, and the two teams have reversed fortunes since then. Tonight, they begin a three game series at Comerica Park.

Boston Red Sox (27-32) at Detroit Tigers (31-25)

Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Over the Monster

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Rubby De La Rosa (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (2-4, 4.10 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
De La Rosa 1 7.0 10.29 0.00 0.00 0.57 0.78 1.19 0.04
Smyly 8 48.1 8.38 3.54 1.49 1.386 4.54 3.90 0.03

Rubby De La Rosa was one of the players that the Red Sox received as a part of their blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012. He made 24 appearances for Triple-A Pawtucket in 2013, allowing a 4.26 ERA. He also displayed some serious command issues, walking 48 batters in 80 1/3 innings. Despite the warning signs, he made 11 appearances for the Red Sox down the stretch, allowing a 5.56 ERA and 5.61 FIP. He has been much better in his second turn through Triple A, allowing a 3.04 ERA and 2.73 FIP in 53 1/3 innings. His walk rate is still elevated slightly, but far better than the disastrous 5.38 per nine innings he allowed last year.

De La Rosa made his 2014 big league debut last week, holding the Tampa Bay Rays scoreless for seven innings. He allowed four hits, but logged eight strikeouts to zero walks. It was only the second time this year he has not allowed a walk in a start. He has a monster fastball that can reach the upper 90s with ease and a solid changeup, but his slider still lacks behind a bit. He relied heavily on the fastball-changeup combo last week, though this could be partially due to a Rays lineup that featured six left-handed hitters. He did get three whiffs on 12 slider thrown, however.

Drew Smyly has been somewhat of an enigma lately, but he looked more like his usual self in the last couple innings of his previous start. He only lasted four innings, throwing 105 pitches despite just one walk, but seemed a bit more comfortable attacking hitters in the third and fourth innings. It seems that Smyly has fallen into a habit of nibbling at the corners lately, but the five strikeouts to one walk he gave up in his last start should give him confidence going forward. He doesn't have front-line stuff, but he will be much more effective when he is aggressive to both right and left-handed hitters.

Hitter to fear: David Ortiz (.500/.500/1.000 in 6 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Jonny Gomes (.000/.000/.000 in 3 plate appearances)

Here is where small sample sizes are fun. Smyly has allowed a .550 OPS to left-handed hitters in his career, with a .449 OPS in 2014. David Ortiz is hitting .500 off him. Meanwhile, Johnny Gomes hits .278/.380/.500 in his career against lefties, but is 0-for-3 against Smyly. A.J. Pierzynski is the only other Sox player to have more than one hit against Smyly, but don't be surprised if David Ross is behind the plate tonight -- though Ross is almost certain to be in the lineup tomorrow as well with Jon Lester on the mound. Of the current Tigers roster, only Bryan Holaday has faced Rubby De La Rosa at the big league level. He singled, but De La Rosa got the last laugh when the Red Sox won by 16 runs.

Outlook

The Tigers could really use a win tonight. This is still a very talented baseball team, but they seem to have fallen into a rut that has permeated throughout the lineup. Their offensive numbers are... well, offensive. That said, there are some encouraging signs. They drew 10 walks during the Blue Jays series, an impressive feat considering the Blue Jays' starters threw first pitch strikes nearly 70% of the time during that three game stretch. Meanwhile, they were a dismal 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The runs should come eventually, but breaking out of a 2-8 stretch at home would be nice.

Prediction

The Tigers win, confusing their fanbase in the process.

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