By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN – The Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) – It’s been nearly two months since the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox opened the season against each other.
They both still have identical records, although neither team is bragging.
The Tigers, who swept that opening series, are coming off another sweep heading into Monday’s opener of a four-game set against the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Boston was hoping for improvement in manager Bobby Valentine’s first season after missing out on a playoff spot in 2011, due to a 7-20 collapse down the stretch. Detroit won 95 games a season ago, advanced to the AL championship series and – after adding slugger Prince Fielder in the offseason – entered 2012 as a clear favorite for another division crown.
These teams, however, are currently both below .500 at 23-24. The Red Sox are last in the powerful AL East and the Tigers occupy third place in the Central.
Detroit comes to Fenway with more momentum after sweeping three games in Minnesota. Miguel Cabrera’s two-run homer with one out in the ninth inning lifted the Tigers to Sunday’s 4-3 victory.
Cabrera was 5 for 12 with five RBIs and four runs scored in the series while Fielder went 9 for 12 with two walks.
“We’re here to win games, not here for personal numbers,” Cabrera said. “If you think about that, you put pressure on yourself.”
Cabrera was one of several Tigers who turned in big numbers in the season-opening, three-game sweep of Boston at Comerica Park. He went 5 for 11 with three homers and eight RBIs, Austin Jackson was 8 for 14 and Fielder and Alex Avila each went 5 for 12 with two homers.
Jackson is out with an abdominal strain, but could return next weekend.
The Red Sox, outhomered 7-1 in the season-opening series, will look to bounce back after closer Alfredo Aceves blew a save in the ninth inning by allowing Sean Rodriguez’s two-run homer in Sunday’s 4-3 home defeat to Tampa Bay. Aceves also blew a save April 8 against the Tigers, when he allowed a three-run home run to Cabrera and did not retire a batter, but had converted 11 of 12 opportunities since.
Boston has spent the entire season at .500 or worse, and has squandered three opportunities to obtain a winning record in the past week alone.
“It’s frustrating for now, but it will happen,” slugger Adrian Gonzalez told the Red Sox’s official website. “(We have to) keep playing hard, get over that hump and keep going from there.”
The Red Sox expect to activate Ryan Sweeney, who has been on the seven-day disabled list for a concussion suffered May 19 against Philadelphia. He’s one of four Boston hitters with at least 14 doubles.
Felix Doubront (4-2, 3.96 ERA) will take the mound for the Red Sox after he yielded two runs over six innings Tuesday in a 4-1 loss at Baltimore as his three-start winning streak ended.
The left-hander, who ranks among baseball’s leaders with a 7.02 run-support average, has never faced Detroit.
Doug Fister (0-2, 1.84) will start for the Tigers. He won his final six decisions of 2011, but is still in search of his first win this season after allowing two runs over 6 2-3 innings Wednesday and not getting a decision in a 4-2 defeat at Cleveland.
Fister lasted 3 2-3 innings April 7 in a 10-0 win over Boston before leaving a muscle strain in his left side that forced him to miss a month. The right-hander is 1-2 with a 2.89 ERA in five career starts against the Red Sox.’
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