After playing an ugly series against the Toronto Blue Jays and getting swept as a result, the Detroit Tigers are going for a weekend sweep of their own to help compensate for their recent slump.
Sunday night, Detroit plays its second consecutive game in front of a national television audience, this one on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. A season sweep of the Boston Red Sox would do wonders for the team's confidence, and could be just the tonic the team needs to rediscover elite status.
Here's five perspectives to watch as the Tiger and Red Sox battle late into the night for the final time during the 2014 regular season.
1. (Another) Kid's Alright. Despite getting into a bit of injury trouble in his first game against Toronto on Wednesday and tweaking his knee, rookie shortstop Eugenio Suarez has done well during his brief big league stint to keep his head above water. Saturday, Suarez hit his first career home run and recorded his first career hit in the process. As they say, it's always hardest to get the first one out of the way. Credit Suarez for doing that early in his career. If he's able to continue some hot hitting and give Detroit a decent answer at shortstop for the next few weeks, that will be a major help to the team, and an unexpected blessing.
2. Detroit's Big Guns Have Big Success Against John Lackey. Despite his 4-1 career record at Comerica Park (6-4 overall against Detroit) the Tigers' big guns have a habit of getting to John Lackey. Miguel Cabrera hits Lackey at a .400 clip, Rajai Davis at .387, Ian Kinsler at .421 with four home runs and Victor Martinez at .400. Those are excellent statistics for the top and middle of Detroit's order, which could mean trouble for Lackey regardless of where the game's being played. Lackey's last start against Detroit was a rough six run outing.
3. Getting The Joba Done. With Saturday night's spotless eighth, Tigers' reliever Joba Chamberlain extended his scoreless streak to 12 innings. In the midst of that 19 appearence streak, he's also racked up 18 strikeouts to only 11 hits with a miniscule 0.96 ERA, which is impressive amidst all of Detroit's bullpen and pitching upheaval. If the game hits the eighth inning with Detroit ahead, it's a good bet it will get to the ninth inning with the same score considering Chamberlain's recent brilliance.
4. Castellanos Heating Up Again. Detroit's slump has been driven by a few variables, but most notably by the inability of the bottom part of the order to deliver clutch hits. As part of Detroit's new two game winning streak, rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos has recorded three straight three hit games. Saturday, he homered driving in one during the Tigers' 8-6 win. With that production, it''s no wonder the Tigers offense has perked up a bit, scoring 14 runs in a two day span. With more Castellanos hitting, they will look even better.
5. Papi Power At Comerica Park. Over his 51 game career at the park, Red Sox' slugger David Ortiz has hit 18 home runs. That's a number good enough to place him in a tie with Paul Konerko for the most ever as a visitor at the stadium. As usual, the theme bears repeating: the Tigers must be extremely careful with Ortiz, with or without anyone on base. If the Tigers have a lead late, they must be even more careful. This message is sponsored by the 2013 ALCS.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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