Tigers-Red Sox Preview

The Detroit Tigers may be especially eager to return home after

a poorly timed downpour further soured their road trip and helped

extend their decade-long stretch of struggles at Fenway Park.

First, though, they’ll try to salvage the finale Wednesday night

as the Boston Red Sox chase a three-game sweep and fifth straight

win overall in a matchup of sinkerballers Aaron Cook and Rick

Porcello.

Detroit (54-50) had won 13 of 15 coming into this nine-game trip

but has dropped six of the first eight, falling 4-1 on Tuesday. The

Red Sox scored four times in the fourth inning off Justin

Verlander, then caught a break when the Tigers had the bases loaded

with two outs in the sixth.

The rain intensified and the rest of the game was washed out,

expediting Detroit’s ninth loss in its last 10 games at Fenway. The

Tigers, who slipped 2 1/2 games behind AL Central-leading Chicago,

are 8-30 in Boston since 2003.

“The umpires do the best they can with that stuff. We had been

playing in some pretty heavy rain,” manager Jim Leyland said. “They

definitely made the right call calling it now. So be it. We put

ourselves in an unfortunate situation.”

Before the game, neither team made any major trades on deadline

day, although the Red Sox added left-handed reliever Craig Breslow

on Tuesday and Detroit dealt for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante

last week.

Even though starter Josh Beckett left with a back injury in the

third inning Tuesday, Boston (53-51) is hoping it already has the

pieces to turn a brief winning streak into an extended playoff

push.

Cook (2-4, 4.50 ERA) was charged with the team’s most recent

loss, 10-3 on Friday at Yankee Stadium. He has allowed 11 runs,

including four homers, over 10 1-3 innings while dropping his last

two starts.

“It’s very frustrating,” Cook said.

A shockingly low strikeout rate may finally be catching up to

the right-hander. Although he’s never been a strikeout pitcher,

instead relying heavily on groundball outs, Cook has needed his

fielders for nearly every out in 2012.

He has four strikeouts in 40 innings, a rate of 0.90 per nine

innings.

For perspective, Cleveland’s Derek Lowe ranks last in the majors

among 101 qualifying pitchers with 3.10 strikeouts per nine.

Porcello (7-6, 4.56) is in the bottom 10 in that category at

5.18. While his strikeouts have been sparse, Porcello has done a

great job of keeping opponents in the ballpark, yielding no homers

over 48 1-3 innings in his last eight starts.

He lost for the first time in six outings Friday at Toronto,

allowing five runs in six innings – four of them with two outs in

the fourth – in an 8-3 defeat.

The right-hander hasn’t faced the Red Sox this year, and he may

wish he were missing them again. He’s 0-2 with a 10.80 ERA in three

starts versus Boston, failing to make it through five innings each

time. Porcello was ejected following a melee in the second inning

of his only previous outing at Fenway on Aug. 11, 2009.

Jacoby Ellsbury is 5 for 5 with a homer against Porcello, who at

least won’t have to worry about David Ortiz. The designated hitter

is eligible to return from the disabled list Wednesday, but he told

the Red Sox’s official website that his strained right Achilles

isn’t quite ready.