Tigers-Red Sox Preview
The availability of the majors' best hitter for a showdown between the clubs remains uncertain.
A banged-up Miguel Cabrera has sat out the last two days heading into Monday's opener of a three-game set at Fenway Park, where his Tigers have been awful over the past decade.
An abdominal strain kept Cabrera sidelined over the weekend after it caused him to leave games early Thursday and Friday. The injury bothered him throughout August - he's also battled hip and leg problems - and manager Jim Leyland said he's unsure when Cabrera will return.
"According to the medical people, that thing can heal while playing," said Leyland, whose club was 8-1 without the reigning AL Triple Crown winner until falling 4-0 to Cleveland on Sunday.
Cabrera has hit .418 with five homers and 18 RBIs in his last 13 games against Boston, going 8 for 15 as Detroit took three of four June 20-23 in the teams' first series.
Both clubs' division leads have since increased. The Red Sox (82-56) are atop the East with the AL's best record, having won seven of eight, and the Tigers (80-57) lead the Central by 7 1/2 games.
Detroit's 699 runs scored are one more than Boston, and no other team is within 40. Led by Cabrera's major league-best .358 average, the Tigers are batting .286 to lead the majors and Boston is next at .274.
Detroit heads into a nine-game trip with an AL-best 19-8 road record since July 2, but is 9-30 at Fenway since the start of 2003, losing 11 of 12 series there.
The Tigers will face a pitcher who has excelled at Fenway in John Lackey (8-11, 3.19). The right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 10 home starts, though he's been pitching well nearly everywhere despite a 1-5 record in eight outings since the All-Star break.
Lackey received no run support in half of those games. He's provided quality starts in three straight and five of six, and he's pitched into the seventh inning in 14 consecutive starts.
"I would like to have more wins than I have right now, but that's not the goal," Lackey told the team's official website. "The goal is for the team to win games."
He threw seven innings of two-run ball at Detroit on June 20, but Boston's bullpen blew a late lead in the 4-3 loss. He's 6-2 with a 3.87 ERA against the Tigers.
Counterpart Doug Fister (11-7, 3.81) has not done as well against his opponent. He's pitched a combined 8 1-3 innings in losing his last two starts to the Red Sox, surrendering six runs and 11 hits in each.
The right-hander was similarly shelled Wednesday, allowing season highs of seven runs and 13 hits in a 14-4 loss to Oakland. Fister was 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA in his previous eight outings.
"Fister today was just a little up, not as sharp with the sinker as he has been pretty much the last few months," catcher Alex Avila told the Tigers' official website. "... It was kind of like a hiccup. Get it over with and move on."
Shane Victorino was 3 for 3 with a homer off Fister in Boston's 10-6 win June 21, but his status is unclear after leaving Sunday with a bruised hip.
Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson may miss a second straight game with a shoulder injury.
Victor Martinez has been hot for the Tigers, hitting .531 over his past eight games, and he's 10 for 24 (.417) off Lackey.
David Ortiz is 5 for 9 with six RBIs following an 0-for-23 drought, moving within two hits of 2,000, and he's batted .442 in his last 11 games against Detroit.