Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Opponent Preview - Boston Red Sox

There's nothing like starting 0-6 at home against the bottom two teams in your division from a year ago only to start a road trip against the defending World Series champions. There is no doubt, the Tigers will have to play like they are capable, or else this series could get uglier than Sunday night's debacle.

Before previewing the team, it's time for a rant. This whole notion of Red Sox Nation is a farce, and would clearly not exist if The Worldwide Leader was located in Kansas City. In that case, the Royals would benefit from the ESPN Hype Machine and would be the lovable losers that they have over-hyped for years.

Here's a glance at Boston's projected lineup:
R-Dustin Pedroia 2B
R-Kevin Youkilis 1B
L-David Ortiz DH
R-Manny Ramirez LF
R-Mike Lowell 3B
L-J.D. Drew RF
S-Jason Varitek C
S-Coco Crisp CF
R-Julio Lugo SS

I list Crisp in center, because there are two lefty starters going for the Tigers this week, and it would seem he would get both of those starts. Regardless, that has all the makings of a solid lineup. Youkilis and Drew are by far off to the hottest starts. Both Drew and Ortiz are prime targets for LOOGY Bobby Seay, as both have done significantly worse against southpaws throughout their career. Now to the bench:

R- Kevin Cash C
L- Sean Casey 1B
L- Alex Cora IF
L- Jacoby Ellsbury OF

None of these guys is particularly great offensively. Ellsbury is probably the best bet to hurt us off the bench. Kevin Cash will probably start Thursday when Wakefield pitches.

R- Daisuke Matsuzaka
L- Jon Lester
R- Tim Wakefield

The Tigers faired pretty well against Matsuzaka in one of the two starts last season. Overall, he was 1-1, 4.50 in two starts. Jon Lester seems like the type of guy the Tigers' right-handed heavy lineup could break out against. If they are able to build the confidence in the first two games, I'd look for Wakefield to be pummeled. If the bats are still cold and the hitters still pressing, Wakefield could make minced meat of this lineup.

R- Jonathan Papelbon
L- Hideki Okajima
R- Manny Delcarmen
R- Julian Tavarez
R- Bryan Corey
L- Javier Lopez
R- David Aardsma

Papelbon is an elite closer, and Okajima is no slouch as an eighth inning guy. It will be important to avoid falling behind before those two are in the game. In Okajima's career, right-handed hitters have hit him to the tune of .182/.235/.277, so don't expect him to be utilized against just left-handed hitters. It may also not be advantageous to bring a Thames in to pinch hit for Jacque Jones when Okajima is on the mound. Delcarmen is dominant in spurts, and Lopez is the primary LOOGY. If the name Bryan Corey sounds familiar, he was claimed off waivers by the Tigers, and spent the 1999 season in Toledo before leaving via free agency after the season.

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