A shortened sweep of the Pirates has led the Red Sox to one of their first real tests of the regular season in the form of a four-game series against the Detroit Tigers, beginning on Friday afternoon (1 p.m., NESN).
Expected to be one of the main competitors to the Cleveland Indians in the American League Central, the Tigers are bound to make plenty of noise with their bats this season. A deep lineup with plenty of power distributed among it is headlined by one of the greatest hitters of this generation in Miguel Cabrera. With a patient eye and an ability to hit to all portions of the field for power, the 33-year-old is poised to record an eighth-straight season in which he’s batted over .300 with 18 home runs or more.
He looks to have plenty of support this season with the likes of Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, Victor Martinez and Justin Upton. Each of those bats are projected to add 20-30 home runs respectively and all but Upton hold the capability of batting over .280.
The Red Sox certainly have the pitching to limit those bats, but it will be the bottom of the rotation that gets the first crack at Detroit. Steven Wright will look to make a seamless transition into 2017 after a year in which he garnered his first-ever All-Star appearance behind a 13-6 record and 3.33 ERA. The knuckleballer will take the mound against Michael Fulmer on Friday, the 2016 American League Rookie of the Year, who compiled an 11-7 record and 3.06 ERA.
Saturday will bring Eduardo Rodriguez’s first opportunity to redeem himself after a 3-7/4.71 sophomore campaign. Turning 24 on Friday, the Venezuelan still has plenty of polishing to do, but could see a noticeable improvement if he can further develop an already-lively cutter.
The big guns come in to end the series as Rick Porcello, who surrendered three runs in 6.1 innings against Pittsburgh, but still looked as good as he did during his Cy Young campaign last season gets the ball on Sunday. Chris Sale will make his second start of the year on Monday afternoon.
Obviously it’s early, but the Red Sox offense has looked inconsistent over its first two games. It was none more obvious than in Wednesday night’s extra-inning victory as they couldn’t figure out Jameson Taillon.
It was Sandy Leon who provided the heroics in the 12th inning, which was only fitting seeing as he’s been Boston’s most consistent bat. Through the first two games of the year, the catcher with a .260 career batting average has five hits in his first eight at bats.
Besides the opposing pitcher, health has done plenty to slow the Sox down. Some of their offensive struggles could be attributed to a flu bug that has swept through the clubhouse.
It already sidelined Mookie Betts, Brock Holt and Robbie Ross Jr. while quarantining Mitch Moreland for three days last week.
After Fulmer, Boston will face veteran Jordan Zimmerman and promising youngster Daniel Norris before a Monday date with Justin Verlander, setting up a tasty matchup against Sale in the series finale.