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Game 102 Preview: Detroit Tigers at Boston Red Sox

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Michael Fulmer and the Tigers look to sweep the series in Boston.

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It sure seemed like the Detroit Tigers were heading down a dark road leading into the trade deadline. After losing two of three at home against the last-place Minnesota Twins, the Tigers split a winnable series against the Chicago White Sox, including suffering two walkoff losses in one day. With pending series against the surging Boston Red Sox and Houston Astros, this is not where the team wanted to be.

So, naturally, the Tigers enter Wednesday afternoon with the opportunity to earn a huge sweep over the Red Sox at Fenway Park. Though the Tigers’ position in the playoff chase has been somewhat stagnant, taking the series in Boston would show that the team can compete with high-level competition. That positive trend might even drive the front office to making a trade before Monday’s deadline.

One player that will not be dealt this week is Michael Fulmer. Acquired almost one year ago, the majority of fans see him as the Tigers' most untouchable player and the Detroit front office likely agrees with this assessment. Fulmer’s season has been extremely impressive, and he has made a strong argument for AL Rookie of the Year accolades.

Fulmer is coming off of one of his roughest outings of the season, giving up four earned runs in five innings against the White Sox. He has not looked as sharp as he did during his scoreless streak earlier this year, but he still has been excellent at preventing runs. However, the Red Sox own the best offense in baseball, so Fulmer will have to be on his game.

Can Fulmer bounce back and help the Tigers earn the sweep?

Detroit Tigers (53-48) at Boston Red Sox (55-43)

Time/Place: 1:35 p.m., Fenway Park
SB Nation Blog: Over the Monster
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Fulmer (9-2, 2.41 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (2-4, 6.70 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Fulmer 89.2 22.1 8.2 3.52 1.8
Rodriguez 41.2 16.3 8.2 6.21 -0.3

The 2016 season did not start out as hoped for Eduardo Rodriguez. After a 2015 debut that began with one earned run over his first 20 2/3 innings, Rodriguez was ready to become a key part of the Red Sox rotation during his sophomore season. Unfortunately, a knee injury in the spring landed him on the disabled list and delayed his arrival until the end of May. Just six starts later he was demoted to Triple-A Pawtucket where he managed a 8.59 ERA, 6.92 FIP, and 2.76 home runs allowed per nine innings.

After two weeks in the minors, Rodriguez returned to Boston. He has made two starts since his rejoining the club, pitching 12 1/3 innings with a 2.19 ERA, 4.52 FIP, and 12.8 percent K-BB%. Though he has looked better compared to his first few starts, Rodriguez still has some kinks to work out. The Tigers should take advantage of the opportunity to jump on the young starter.

Despite their recent activity in the trade market and desire to upgrade the rotation, Boston looks like they will let Rodriguez continue to occupy the No. 5 role. Though his numbers have not been pretty, he is a young pitcher with a lot of potential and was highly regarded during his time as a prospect. While the Tigers may be able to get to him on Wednesday, Rodriguez looks poised for a promising future in the majors.

Tigers hitter to Fear: Nick Castellanos (.333/.333/1.333 in 3 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to Fail: Ian Kinsler (.000/.000/.000 in 3 plate appearances)

Rodriguez made one start against the Tigers last season, pitching seven innings in a Red Sox blowout win. He gave up just three hits and a lone run, which came via a Nick Castellanos solo shot. Though the game happened just over a year ago, half of the batters Rodriguez faced will not be wearing Tigers uniforms today. Conversely, Fulmer will be making his first career start against the Red Sox.

Outlook

Fulmer has been superb throughout his rookie campaign and one tough start does not change that. He will need to pitch better than his last time out if he wants to succeed against a potent Boston offense, but he has shown that he is able to do so. While Rodriguez looks to be progressing in the right direction, he is still vulnerable to be knocked around. The Tigers do not always execute in these situations, but it preferable to face Rodriguez before it all comes together for him, and the offense should be able to put together some runs.

Prediction

The Tigers win behind an impressive Fulmer start against a strong Red Sox offense.