Wakefiled Faces Tigers

In a Boston Red Sox rotation featuring two World Series MVPs and a Japanese pitching legend, a 40-year-old knuckleballer has been perhaps the most effective of all.

Tim Wakefield looks to continue baffling opposing hitters and lead the streaking Red Sox to their eighth win in nine games Tuesday night when they continue their four-game series with the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers at Fenway Park.

Oddsmakers have made Boston -125 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 9 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 54% of bets for this game have been placed on Boston -125 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Japanese superstar Daisuke Matsuzaka pitched his first career complete game and won his fourth straight decision in Monday night's series opener, limiting the Tigers (23-14) to six hits - including a Curtis Granderson homer - as the Red Sox (26-11) won 7-1.

Boston's third straight victory - and sixth in seven games - stretched its AL East lead to 8 1/2 games over the New York Yankees, its largest division lead since Sept. 26, 1995. The Red Sox also improved to 21-0 when scoring at least five runs.

"We have to continue to play good solid baseball and it has to start with our pitching,'' Boston catcher Jason Varitek said. "We can't scoreboard watch.''

Matsuzaka and former World Series MVPs Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling have combined to go 16-3 in the first three slots of Boston's starting rotation.

However, Wakefield (4-3, 1.79 ERA) boasts the lowest ERA in the AL, and has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his seven starts. He has thrown 14 shutout innings to win his last two outings, giving him the longest active scoreless innings streak among major league starters.

On Thursday at Toronto, Wakefield limited the Blue Jays to three hits and one walk while striking out five in seven innings of Boston's 8-0 victory.

"He's definitely throwing the ball great,'' said Doug Mirabelli, Wakefield's personal catcher. "He's going out there every day and giving us a chance to win.''

Wakefield also went consecutive starts without allowing a run on June 18 and 24, 2005, but he has never had three straight scoreless starts. He is 13-9 with a 4.41 ERA in 31 career appearances, including 19 starts, against the Tigers.

The knuckleballer has also won five straight starts over Detroit at Fenway Park, a run which dates back to 1999.

He will be opposed by 2006 AL rookie of the year Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.83). Like Wakefield, Verlander has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his seven starts.

The 24-year-old right-hander has won his last two starts, but has not been dominant in recent outings. Despite yielding only seven earned runs, Verlander has allowed 24 hits in just 15 1-3 innings over his last three starts as opponents have hit .358 against him.

He yielded nine hits in 5 1-3 innings Thursday against Seattle, but allowed only two runs to gain the win in Detroit's 7-3 victory.

"We swung the bats good but couldn't get the big hit,'' Mariners manager Mike Hargrove said. "Verlander was good when he had to be.''

Verlander lost his only career start versus Boston, a 6-4 defeat at Fenway last Aug. 16, when he gave up five runs, six hits and seven walks over six innings.

The Tigers have lost consecutive games for the first time since April 27-28 against Minnesota. They are trying to avoid matching their season-high three-game losing skid from April 18-21 versus Kansas City and Chicago.

by: Dave Michaels - thespread.com – Email Us

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