There can be no argument that the best 1-2 hitting punch in Major League Baseball is Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder of the Detroit Tigers. The scary thing now about the defending American League champions is they have an argument for the best 1-2 pitching punch in the game, as well. That’s because Max Scherzer has gone to a new level and might be even filthier than Justin Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP.
Those terrific twosomes are what the Sox have to deal with in a four-game series at Comerica Park in Motown this weekend. Detroit will open around a -140 series favorite.
Cabrera is looking to become the first player to win back-to-back Triple Crowns, and he might do it. Entering Wednesday, he leads the AL comfortably in average and RBIs but trails Baltimore’s Chris Davis by five home runs. Fielder, who hits behind Cabrera at cleanup, is no slouch, hitting .289 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs. Thanks in large part to those two, the Tigers lead the AL in on-base percentage and batting average, but are behind the Sox in runs scored and slugging.
Fielder blew up the Sox last year in his first AL season, hitting .351 with four homers and nine RBIs in 37 at-bats. Cabrera also terrorized the Red Sox in 2012, batting .366 with four homers and 14 RBIs in 41 at-bats. He has really hit Jon Lester well in his career, with Lester due on the mound Friday.
The Tigers look to be pulling away in the AL Central, a division they were expected to win. They are mammoth -1000 favorites to do so. Detroit is also the +250 favorite to win another AL pennant, with the Red Sox at +500.
Meanwhile, everyone knows how good Verlander is, although his numbers (8-5, 3.72 ERA) aren’t quite up to his impossibly high standards, and the Tigers have lost his past two starts. Verlander, currently the highest-paid pitcher in the majors, is scheduled to start Sunday’s finale. He is 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA in 69.1 career innings against Boston. Verlander was 0-2 with a 3.79 ERA in three starts against the Sox in 2012. If you are considering a Red Sox batter for a hitting prop against Verlander, the only good bet appears to be David Ortiz. He’s 8-for-24 with two homers and four RBIs in his career off him.
Scherzer (10-0, 3.08) is set to start Saturday, and he might have the best fastball in the league. He leads all AL starters with 53 strikeouts off that pitch. He has had at least six punchouts in all 14 starts this year. The only other AL pitcher ever with at least five strikeouts in his first 14 starts of a season? The Sox Pedro Martinez (three times). Scherzer is the first Tigers starter to open 10-0 in 104 years.
Boston has not had problems with Scherzer, as he is 1-3 with a 9.21 ERA in 28 1/3 career innings against the Sox. He was 1-1 with a 9.00 ERA against Boston in 2012. Ortiz is 6-for-10 with two homers off Scherzer, while Dustin Pedroia is another good betting option with a .300 average and two homers against him.