Tigers-Red Sox Preview
By ALAN FERGUSON
(AP) -- The Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander was hit hard in a rare late collapse in his most recent start. He had the same problem in an earlier outing this season at Fenway Park.
Verlander and the road-weary Tigers set out to regroup in the middle game of their series versus the Red Sox, who might deal away scheduled starter Josh Beckett before Tuesday night's game.
Verlander (11-6, 2.60 ERA) was 6-1 with a 1.96 ERA over seven starts before Thursday's game in Cleveland, where he had allowed one run and three hits over his first six innings there. In the seventh, he was tagged for four runs and six hits, including back-to-back home runs to start off the frame.
"It was a battle for me all night," Verlander told the team's website. "I didn't really feel great. I never really got in a groove and got comfortable out there, but I was able to battle and keep those guys off the board for the most part until that inning."
The All-Star right-hander also had trouble keeping the Red Sox off the scoreboard May 29 when he allowed five runs and a season-high 10 hits over six innings in a 6-3 defeat.
"They were hitting some decent pitches," Verlander said after that outing. "Obviously this is a good lineup and they were more than capable of doing that. I can't say I pitched bad, but it was a battle because of the way that they were putting together at-bats against me."
Verlander was 2-0 with a 1.40 ERA over his previous five matchups with Boston (52-51). He gave up two hits and one walk over eight scoreless innings during Detroit's season-opening 3-2 win at Comerica Park on April 5.
This time, he'll face a Boston team riding its longest win streak since a five-game run from June 16-21. The Red Sox earned their third consecutive victory in Monday's series opener as Dustin Pedroia homered and drove in three runs.
"It's pitching and hitting at the same time," pitcher Clay Buchholz said. "You've got to pitch and hit well to go on a streak like we need to go on."
Will Middlebrooks added a two-run homer run in that 7-3 victory, Boston's eighth in nine home games against Detroit (54-49). The Tigers, meanwhile, dropped to 2-5 on their nine-game road trip after going 13-2 over a home-heavy stretch.
Beckett (5-9, 4.57) is slated to help the Red Sox try for another victory, but Boston has been talking with other teams about a deal for the veteran right-hander ahead of Tuesday's afternoon deadline.
Should he remain in Boston, Beckett will seek his second win in 10 starts. He's allowed a combined nine runs in back-to-back defeats, including a 5-3 loss in Texas on Wednesday.
Beckett is 0-3 with a 6.62 ERA in his last three starts against Detroit.
Ryan Sweeney might be unavailable for this game after he "punched a door" sometime during Monday's game. He's expected to have X-rays on Tuesday. Mike Aviles is also dealing with turf toe.
Updated July 31, 2012