Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, June 6, 2014 at 7:00 PM
Last October, the Boston Red Sox beat the Detroit Tigers four games to two in the ALCS, on the way to what would be another World Championship. Leading into 2014, many pundits expected these two teams to once again lead the way in the AL. Detroit had been doing its part, until a five-game losing streak made things interesting once again in the watered down AL Central. Boston is off to a stunningly slow start, and has to get hot and stay hot just to get back in the postseason discussion.
Entering the weekend:
Boston: 27-32, a full nine games behind first place Toronto in the AL East
Detroit: 31-25, only 2.5 games against of second place Chicago after that 5-game losing streak
Because of publication deadlines, this is being written before Friday’s series opener between the Sox and Tigers. Adjust those records accordingly. Detroit may be on a six-game losing streak before first pitch Saturday!
This is a stunning turnaround from a recent series these two teams played in Boston. You’ll recall that the Tigers swept that three-game set. Here were the records upon completion.
Records on Sunday Night May 18
What would have been a 9-game lead in the standings was only 5.5 games entering this weekend. You can see the Tigers are 4-13 since the Fenway finale. Boston followed up a long losing streak with a long winning streak. They’re further below .500 now than they were the last time these teams saw each other.
Let’s talk about what they’ll be seeing Saturday Night in a game many of YOU will be seeing on FOX.
Boston: 4.07 runs per game, .328 on-base, .373 slugging
Detroit: 4.43 runs per game, .321 on-base, .419 slugging
Disappointing data for both teams considering preseason expectations. Boston is still #5 in the league in on-base percentage…which is supposed to be a specialty for the analytics-driven franchise. Detroit is league average in that stat. Boston’s slugging has all but disappeared this season. The Red Sox rank #12 in the American League even with playing home games in hitting friendly Fenway Park! Detroit ranks third in the AL in slugging, which is why they’ve been able to score runs and coast into first place in the AL Central even with other disappointments.
Detroit has the better offense at the moment. Let’s see who will enjoy the pitching edge in this prime time TV matchup.
Jon Lester: 3.15 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.7 K-Rate
Max Scherzer: 3.20 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.2 K-Rate
Lester has been inconsistent…but FANTASTIC when things are going well. He just had 12 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings against slumping Tampa Bay in his last outing. Not long ago, he reached 15 strikeouts in eight scoreless innings against the Oakland juggernaut. Even with those, his ERA is still over 3.00. So, clearly a feast or famine situation against dangerous Detroit.
Something may be wrong with Scherzer. In his last three starts, he’s allowed 15 earned runs in only 19.2 innings. That caused his ERA to soar from 1.83 to the 3.20 you see above. All three outings were on the road, and he’s back home tonight. But, generally, when you see a Cy Young caliber pitcher have THREE straight games worse than par (with a corresponding dip in strikeouts), something’s amiss. Let’s keep an eye on that!
Amazing how virtually identical those pitching stats are. You’d be hardpressed to find many starters who are that evenly matched across all three categories. A couple of weeks ago, Scherzer clearly would have had the edge. Now, how knows? Lester has much better recent form, but is prone to poor outings because of his inconsistency. Fascinating challenge for handicappers.
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Speaking of basketball, we’ll return tomorrow to preview Game Two of the NBA Finals featuring Miami at San Antonio. Game Three will be Tuesday in Miami. We’ll split those previews with a Monday look at the huge AL West series featuring the Oakland A’s and the Los Angeles Angels.
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