Tigers-Red Sox Preview
By MATT BEARDMORE
(AP) -- One particularly rocky outing aside, Josh Beckett has settled down nicely for the Boston Red Sox since a rough season debut against the Detroit Tigers.
Max Scherzer's season is heading in the right direction after it began with an awful performance against the Red Sox.
The right-handers will try to continue their string of solid starts Thursday night as Boston goes for the four-game sweep and an eighth consecutive home win in this series.
Since yielding seven runs in 2 1-3 innings of an 8-3 loss to Cleveland on May 10 - and getting booed off the Fenway Park mound after news broke that he played golf while skipping a start to rest a strained lat muscle - Beckett (4-4, 4.15 ERA) has gone 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA. He's pitched at least seven innings in each of those three outings after striking out five in seven innings of Saturday's 3-2 victory over Tampa Bay.
"If I get a no-decision the rest of my starts this year, it's not that big a deal if we win them all like that," Beckett told the Red Sox's official website following Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off two-run homer.
Beckett wasn't close to defeating Detroit (23-27) on April 7, getting tagged for a career high-tying five homers - two apiece from Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera - in a 10-0 loss.
Boston (26-24) was swept in that season-opening three-game set at Comerica Park, but the club is perfect at home in this series since July 30, 2010, following Wednesday's 6-4 victory.
Winners of 14 of 19 and a season-best two games above .500, the Red Sox - still last in the AL East - are going for their first four-game sweep at home since July 7-10. That could be challenging considering Scherzer (4-3, 5.67) - the major league leader with 12.0 strikeouts per nine innings - has fanned 24 and walked one while winning his last two starts.
The right-hander, though, has given up two homers in each of those outings.
"I just keep making a couple mistakes every game leaving a pitch in the middle of the plate where they've been able to do damage with it," Scherzer said after striking out nine in Saturday's 6-3 win at Minnesota.
The Red Sox did plenty of damage against Scherzer on April 8, scoring seven runs and chasing him after 2 2-3 innings of Detroit's 13-12, 11-inning victory.
Scherzer is 0-2 with an 11.81 ERA - his highest against any opponent - in four starts versus Boston.
David Ortiz, 7 for 12 with two homers, three doubles and five RBIs in the series, is 6 for 8 with two homers and a double off Scherzer.
Adrian Gonzalez, who has two hits in 11 at-bats against Scherzer, is batting .300 (12 for 40) during a team-best 10-game hitting streak.
Fielder is 14 for 27 (.519) while hitting safely in seven straight. He's faced Beckett six times and has three hits - all home runs.
Cabrera is 10 for 25 against Boston in 2012 after going 4 for 5 with a career high-tying three doubles Wednesday.
Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia is doubtful Thursday after missing the last two games with a torn adductor muscle in his right thumb. Manager Bobby Valentine said Wednesday that Pedroia was told not to swing a bat until the swelling decreased, but that he could play defense if needed.
Updated May 31, 2012