Former Red Sox shortstop Jose Iglesias is having a stellar season at the plate and in the field, but it hasn't been enough to get the Tigers into contention in the AL Central. (Duane Burleson/Getty Images)

Red Sox-Tigers series preview

July 24, 2015 - 9:10 am
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After an abysmal road trip and start to the second half, the Red Sox return to Fenway to start a 10-game homestand with a three-game set against the Tigers.

Over the tail end of June and beginning of July, the Sox gained momentum and looked to be putting themselves in a position to make a run in the season's second half. Instead, the Sox have won just one of their last 10 games and have gone 0-7 since the All-Star break.

All of a sudden the Red Sox, who had gotten as close as five games back in the AL East, own a 42-54 record. The team owns the worst record in the American League and sits 12 games behind the first-place Yankees in the division.

General manager Ben Cherington addressed the media on Wednesday and expressed disappointment with the team's recent performance but did not indicate any change in the organization's long-term plan.

"We're not where we want to be. The last 10 days or so haven't gone well and not the way we wanted them to go. I don't think it changes anything in the big picture," Cherington said. "We've still got to pursue things that are going to make us better and continue to try to build a good team as quickly as we can. The last 10 days haven't gone the way we wanted it to."

While the Red Sox' struggles have made all the headlines in these parts, the Tigers have similarly failed to live up to their own expectations. The Tigers are 47-48, placing them third in the AL Central. The team has lost seven of its last 10 games

The Tigers are 10 1/2 games behind the Royals in the division. Because KC owns the second-best record in the majors, the Tigers (and the second-place Twins) face a steep road to being competitive and closing the divisional gap.

For the Tigers, offense has not been the problem. With 431 runs, Detroit has scored more than any team in baseball except for the Blue Jays. Their team batting average of .279 is the best in the league. The Tigers' team OPS of .773 is also behind only Toronto. Despite the gaudy offensive numbers, Detroit's run differential is still negative.

The Tigers own a team ERA of 4.37, ranking 27th in baseball (not surprisingly, the Red Sox rank one worse at 28th). Opponents are hitting .267 against Tigers pitchers, also ranking 27th. Both the bullpen and starters' ERA ranks in the bottom quartile of the major league ranks.

After trading for David Price last season, the Tigers lost Max Scherzer to the Nationals in free agency. Now, aside from Price, no Tigers starter has posted an ERA below 4.30. Additionally, given the team's current place in the standings and Price's impending free agency this winter, trade rumors have started to swirl about the talented left-hander.

"We keep waiting for that step or two forward, and then that third or fourth step to get rolling, but every time you feel like you're on the cusp of something good or something positive happening, we end up losing a game," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said following a loss Thursday.

Here are the pitching matchups for the series:

Friday: Rick Porcello (5-10, 5.79 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (0-3, 6.62 ERA) Saturday: Steven Wright (3-3, 4.84 ERA) vs. Alfredo Simon (8-6, 4.63 ERA) Sunday: Eduardo Rodriguez (5-3, 4.64 ERA) vs. Shane Greene (4-7, 6.52 ERA)

WHO'S HOT: RED SOX

-- In July, Xander Bogaerts has been one of the team's bright spots. In 16 games this month, Bogaerts has hit .400 and knocked in 13 runs while hitting in the three-hole in the lineup. He has a July OPS of .889. In the past six games, he has a .409 average.

-- Since the Sox acquired him from the Orioles, outfielder Alejandro De Aza's production has been a pleasant surprise. In 36 games with the team, De Aza has hit .311 with 19 RBIs.

-- Mike Napoli has had a miserable season, but has started to heat up slightly of late. The first baseman hit two doubles and knocked a homer in Thursday's game in Houston. Over the course of his current five-game hitting streak, Napoli is 8-for-20 with a trio of both doubles and RBIs.

WHO'S HOT: TIGERS

-- Like the Sox, the Tigers have a hot-hitting shortstop of their own to boast about. All-Star Jose Iglesias is hitting .325 on the season and .339 in the month of July. The former Red Sox shortstop has an OPS this month of .861. He is also hitting .455 in the past week.

-- Ian Kinsler has had quite the month of July. In 19 games, the second baseman is hitting .372 with a 1.010 OPS. He has swatted three homers and eight doubles while driving in 12 runs.

-- Catcher James McCann is 7-for-18 in his past five games. This month, he has a batting average of .417 and 1.058 OPS in 10 games.

WHO'S NOT: RED SOX

-- Third baseman Pablo Sandoval hasn't yet proven worthy of the five-year, $95 million investment the team made in him this winter. July has seen continued struggles for the Panda, who has hit .246 this month. In 15 games, he has yet to hit a home run and has tallied just four RBIs. His July OPS is just .537.

-- Mookie Betts has been very impressive in his first full season in Boston but has had some issues at the plate lately. The leadoff man is hitting .246 in July and went hitless in the first four games after the All-Star break.

-- Entering Thursday's action, left fielder Hanley Ramirez had an average of just .095 (2-for-21) in the last week. In 16 games this month, Ramirez has a meager .177 batting average.

WHO'S NOT: TIGERS

-- Justin Verlander has made only six starts this season after returning from injury in June. The Tigers have not won a single one of them. Verlander is 0-3 in those contests and has amassed a 6.52 ERA. He is far from the ace he was as recently as two years ago.

-- Alex Avila has not had a July to remember, hitting .190. He is slugging only .262 (just one extra-base hit) and has struck out 14 times in 13 games. With 42 at-bats, that makes for an ugly strikeout rate of 33 percent.

-- Outfielder Rajai Davis has a batting average of .152 this month. In 13 July games, he has only five hits and has yet to record an RBI. He has an OPS of .419 in that span.

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