Boston Red Sox (22-14) -125, o/u 8 at Detroit Tigers (15-20), 7:05 pm Eastern Thursday
by Zman of Predictem.com
First place in the AL East meets last place in the AL Central when the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers play the finale of a four-game series Thursday night at Comerica Park.
Baseball Sportsbooks are listing Boston and starting pitcher Josh Beckett as -125 road favorites for Thursday’s game, with a total of 8 , while Detroit and Justin Verlander are getting +110 as home underdogs.
The Red Sox won the first two games of this series by scores of 6-3 and 5-0. But Boston had a five-game winning streak snapped, and the Tigers broke a five-game losing streak, when Detroit rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 9th against Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon for a 10-9 victory Wednesday night.
So going into Thursday’s game, Boston leads the AL East by 3 games over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays, while the Tigers sit in fifth place in the AL Central, 3 games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins.
The Red Sox are 8-9 on the road this season, 17-10 as favorites but 15-21 vs. the run line. Meanwhile, Detroit is just 7-10 at home this year, 7-8 as underdogs and 16-19 vs. the run line.
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Boston has taken four of six games from the Tigers already this season, but Detroit took the season series from the Sox last year four games to three. The o/u is 4-8-1 in those most recent 13 meetings in this series, which have averaged (thanks to two big totals this season) 9.1 total runs per game. The seven games these two teams played last year averaged just 7.6 total runs.
Over his last three starts, which includes an average performance in a 12-4 win over Tampa last Saturday, Beckett (3-2, 4.19, .96 WHIP this season) has given up eight ER and 20 baserunners (hits + walks) in 23 IP. Boston is 3-2 in Beckett’s starts this year, the o/u 3-2.
Beckett, who owns a 34/8 strikeout-to-walk ratio this year, hasn’t started a game vs. the Tigers since 2006.
On the other side of this pitching match-up, Verlander (1-5, 6.28, 1.44), over his last three starts, which includes a decent outing in a 4-1 loss to Minnesota last Saturday, has allowed 11 ER and 28 BR in 18 2/3 innings of moundwork. Detroit is just 1-6 in Verlander’s starts this year, the o/u 4-3.
Verlander, who owns a 25/20 K/BB ratio this season, started once vs. the Red Sox last year, giving up two ER, no walks and six hits in 7 2/3 IP of a 7-2 Tigers win.
Offensively speaking, Boston ranks 3rd in the majors in team OBP at .363, 4th in team slugging at .446 and 3rd in scoring at 5.1 runs per game. And the Sox have scored 46 runs over their last six games.
On the other line-up card, the Tigers rank 7th in OBP at .347, 10th in slugging at .421 and 7th in scoring at 4.9 RPG. But before Wednesday’s 10-run outburst, Detroit had scored just 11 runs over its previous five games.
In the arms race, Boston, before Wednesday’s game, had allowed just 20 runs over its previous nine games. Meanwhile, the Tigers have now given up 42 runs over their last six games.
The Red Sox bullpen, over its last five games, has allowed seven ER and 22 BR in 13 2/3 IP. On the other side of the field, the Detroit pen has given up nine ER and 21 BR over its last five games, covering 11 2/3 innings of work.
The o/u is 17-17 in Boston games this year, which are averaging 9.4 total runs per, while the totals are 16-16 in Tigers games, which are averaging 10.4 RPG. Also, the o/u is 8-7 in games played at Comerica Park this season, which are averaging 11.2 total runs, 2nd-most among all ML ballparks. Last year, Detroit home games averaged 10.65 total runs per game.
Zman’s Pick: Until Verlander proves to be out of his early season funk, we’ll keep betting against him. Especially at respectable odds with a pitcher like Beckett on the hill opposing him.