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ON DECK: Tigers kick off second half, welcoming in mighty Red Sox

Welcome back, baseball fans. After a near-week-long hiatus from the sport due to the All-Star festivities, the Detroit Tigers are back in action and back home. We lost saw the Motor City Kitties escape Houston on Sunday with a 6-3 win against Justin Verlander and the defending champion Astros.

UP NEXT

To kick off the second half of the 2018 season, the Tigers (41-57) will bring in the powerful Boston Red Sox (68-30) for a weekend series at Comerica Park.

Owners of the best record in baseball in terms of win percentage (.694) and the second-best run differential (+163), the Red Sox were one of those teams that did not want to enter the All-Star break. They had won 12 of 13 and 19 of 23 following last Sunday’s 5-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.

Even with the momentum perhaps vanished, the Tigers are going to welcome in a Red Sox club that is 34-17 on the road; only the Astros have a higher win percentage away from home in 2018. In terms of the all-time series, Detroit won last year’s set between these two played at Comerica and have won four of the last six when Boston was in town.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1 | David Price (Red Sox) vs. Matthew Boyd (Tigers)

One of many former Tigers currently affiliated with the Red Sox, David Price (10-6, 4.42 ERA) has been a little better than his overall ERA mark would suggest. The 32-year-old posted a sub-3.00 ERA in five June starts but a rocky July (9.20 ERA in three starts) really elevated that heading into the break. This will be Price’s first appearance against the Tigers since being traded away to Toronto in 2015. He owns a career 2.40 ERA in eight games against his former club.

One guy who desperately needs to get back on track is lefty Matthew Boyd (4-8, 4.76 ERA). The 27-year-old surrendered five runs over six innings in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays back on July 10. It closed out a stretch in the first half in which the ERA for Boyd was approaching 10.00, spanning five starts, elevating his season mark by more than 1.5 runs. This will be Boyd’ second start against Boston this year, he tossed 6.1 innings of two-run ball in Fenway back on June 7.

Game 2 | Brian Johnson (Red Sox) vs. Mike Fiers (Tigers)

Brian Johnson (1-2, 4.20 ERA) is a guy that, up until this season, had been exclusively starting games in the Red Sox farm system since the 2012 season. The 27-year-old has made 25 appearances this season, 21 of which have been out of the bullpen, but has been pressed into starting duties lately due to injuries in the Boston rotation. Johnson carries a 2.79 ERA in his four starts (5.10 ERA in 21 relief outings) but he has gone at least five innings only once in those four starts. Boston, however, is 4-0 when Johnson starts for them.

Mike Fiers (6-6, 3.70 ERA) finished the first half on a high note, holding his former Houston Astros teammates to just three runs over six innings. Unfortunately, he was a tough-luck loser because the Tigers were shut out once more. Still, it wrapped a strong finish to the first half for Fiers, compiling a 2.75 ERA over his last nine outings, thrusting his name right into potential trade talks. He missed the Red Sox in the first meeting between these two teams but carries a career 2.76 ERA in three appearances (two starts) vs. Boston.

Game 3 | Chris Sale (Red Sox) vs. TBD (Tigers)

Fresh off becoming the first pitcher in 60+ years to start in three straight All-Star Games, southpaw Chris Sale (10-4, 2.23 ERA) will face an old nemesis in the Tigers to open his second half. A perennial Cy Young candidate, Sale is in that conversation once more this year. He has finished top-5 in the voting each of the last five seasons, including runner-up in 2017. The American League leader in ERA, FIP (2.17), and K/9 (13.1) has a career 3.05 ERA in 31 appearances all-time against the Tigers.

This was slated to be the first start of the second half for Tigers right-hander Michael Fulmer. However, the team has placed him on the DL prior to the start of Friday’s game with an oblique strain. The news effectively deposits any trade possibilities surrounding Fulmer right into the trash bin.

The Tigers have not formally announced a starter for Sunday to take Fulmer’s spot. Francisco Liriano is penciled in to pitch on Monday, while Jordan Zimmermann is tentatively slated for Tuesday. A strong guess could be Blaine Hardy (3-2, 3.31 ERA), who made eight starts for Detroit earlier this season due to injuries elsewhere in the rotation.

HITTERS TO WATCH

This will be the first game for Red Sox slugger J.D. Martinez playing in Comerica Park since the Tigers traded him midseason a year ago to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Martinez had to wait a little longer to get his long-term deal but eventually got it and has been worth every penny so far. The league leader in homers (29) and RBI (80) is also posting career-high marks in batting average (.328) and on-base percentage (.393).

For the Tigers, starting center fielder Leonys Martín will return to the starting lineup after his second stint on the disabled list this season. He last played on July 1 in Toronto before suffering a hamstring. Unlike his first DL stint, Martín did partake in some rehab games down at Triple-A before being reinstated. He is also one of very few Tigers who had success hitting against Boston in their first go-round. The 30-year-old went 3 for 11 with a triple, a homer, and two RBI against the Red Sox earlier this season.

SERIES INFO

  • Game 1 | Fri, July 20 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 2 | Sat, July 21 @ 6:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 3 | Sun, July 22 @ 1:10 p.m. ET

All games can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit unless otherwise noted. Be sure to check your local listings for regional radio broadcasts.

Written by Alex Muller

MSU Graduate. Just a city boy born and raised in south Detroit. Baseball is life, a pitcher at heart. Freelance writer for MIPrepZone (News-Herald, Press & Guide).

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