Mike Fiers and the Detroit bullpen completely shut the Red Sox’ offense down on Saturday evening in a 5–0 Detroit win. That win to level the series came after Boston barely held on for a 1–0 win in the opener on Friday.
So Boston’s offense hasn’t looked like the Major League’s best two games into the final 64-game stretch after the all-star break. Mookie Betts hit in his last two at-bats to finish 2-for-5 after an 0-for on Friday; JD Martinez didn’t play on Saturday. Alex Cora cited rest after Martinez played the first half of the all-star game and hit the wall hard on Friday night making a nice catch on the warning track. He will be in the lineup on Sunday.
Those guys are top-of-the-line; everybody knows that. What makes me most skeptical about Boston as a contender is the barren stretch of lineup that usually includes some combination of Devers/Nunez, Brock Holt/Nunez, and then Sandy Leon. Rarely will a team with a stretch like that go far in the playoffs. For that reason, when Martinez and Betts aren’t hitting, the offense has a chance to really struggle for long stretches, as was the case last year in a lineup that was mostly the same, with the obvious omission of Martinez.
Could Boston be in the middle of such a stretch? I’m betting on it today. Neither Betts nor Martinez are in a slump yet, but neither has much momentum going into this game. More importantly, Andrew Benintendi and Xander Bogaerts, who are the two x-factors in the Boston lineup, have come out of the starting gates slowly.
Detroit will throw left-handed starter Blaine Hardy, who has spent all of July out of the bullpen but has started games earlier in the year. No matter what role he’s been in, he’s been effective. Hardy went six innings in a start against the Red Sox early last month, giving up five runs but not walking a single batter. At Fenway Park, there’s something to be said about just going six.
So I like his chances to throw well on Sunday. That doesn’t necessarily mean I like the Tigers, because they have to go up against Chris Sale. The more obvious choice is to play the under. If Boston’s offense has a third straight stinker, it’s almost certainly going to be a win at under 8.5.
Play: Under 8.5 (-120)