Boston Red Sox (45-31) at Detroit Tigers (40-32)
Time/Place: 7:15 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: Over the Monster
Media: FOX (broadcast map), Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Allen Webster (0-1, 11.74 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (10-0, 3.08 ERA)
Webster is a 23 year old right-hander who was drafted out of high school by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008. He worked his way up through the Dodgers system before being sent to Boston in that massive nine player trade between the two teams last August. He made his major league debut earlier this season in a spot start against the Kansas City Royals where he allowed three runs (two earned) in six innings. He was shelled by the Minnesota Twins in his next start, allowing eight runs in just 1 2/3 innings.
While his first taste of the big leagues didn't go so well, he projects to be a solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. You can read a full scouting report here, but the general consensus is that his command will determine how good he can be. He walked three batters in that awful outing against the Twins, and has walked nearly four batters per nine innings in Triple-A Pawtucket this year. He made some mechanical adjustments during the spring, but those haven't translated into in-game results quite yet. He has a good mid-90s fastball and a decent curveball and slider, but his changeup projects to be his best pitch. This hasn't limited lefties from a .782 OPS against him in the minors this season, however.
There hasn't been a changing of the guard yet, but one thing is clear in Detroit this week: Max Scherzer is the Tigers' stopper. After three sub-par outings from the rotation in the last four games -- and the other from a rookie who got released by the Marlins, go figure -- Scherzer needs to step in and have a solid game to both right the ship and save the bullpen. Sound familiar? Justin Verlander posted a gaudy 16-3 record and 1.45 ERA in these situations in 2011, while Scherzer is 6-0 with a 3.07 ERA after a Tigers loss in 2013.
He will have to overcome some bad history against the Red Sox to deliver a victory. In six career starts against Boston, Scherzer is 1-3 with a 9.21 ERA. A large part of that is due to his poor start against them last April, when he allowed seven earned runs in just 2 2/3 innings. He had a solid outing against them in May of 2012, but hit a speed bump at Fenway Park in late July, allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings. David Ortiz has given him fits, with six hits (two of them homers) in ten at-bats.
The Tigers are mired in a bit of a mini-slump, having lost three of their five games on the current homestand. The offense hasn't completely disappeared, but the struggles of Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez have left a gaping hole in the middle of the order. Martinez's issues have spanned the entire season, but Prince's homerless streak is now in its third week. He is hitting just .266/.319/.328 and has grounded into four double plays in his last 16 games. Getting him going will be just as important as getting a solid performance from Scherzer on the mound today.
Scherzer's undefeated run continues today and the Tigers pick up a much-needed victory.