The Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox both seem to be picking up where they left off at the end of last regular season.
While that's grounds for optimism in Detroit, it may be enough to incite April panic in Boston.
On Sunday at Comerica Park, the Tigers seek to complete a three-game sweep of the Red Sox, who will try to avoid opening 0-3 in consecutive seasons for the first time in nearly 80 years.
After winning Thursday's opener 3-2 on a ninth-inning RBI single by Austin Jackson, Detroit (2-0) made sure similar dramatics were unnecessary Saturday. Prince Fielder hit his first two home runs in a Tigers uniform and Miguel Cabrera also homered twice as Detroit went deep five times off Boston starter Josh Beckett en route to a 10-0 rout.
Coming on the heels of a 30-9 finish to the 2011 regular season, the team's first division title since 1987, and the offseason acquisition of Fielder, the Tigers' fast start may be enough to send fans' expectations into orbit.
"So far everything's good. We're 2-0,'' Fielder said. "Hopefully we'll just keep working hard and keep it going. We're not going to go 162-0, I don't think.''
Their manager may now be Bobby Valentine instead of Terry Francona, but the Red Sox (0-2) are already inspiring unpleasant memories of 2011 - both the 7-22 September that eliminated them from postseason contention and the 0-6 start in April that saw them outscored 38-16 in sweeps at Texas and Cleveland.
Another loss Sunday would give Boston its first consecutive 0-3 starts since doing so in three straight years from 1931-33, the final seasons of 15 consecutive losing campaigns for the club.
The Red Sox will never know if a healthy Clay Buchholz would have helped them avoid last September's collapse, but they will send him to the mound Sunday as they seek to avoid a sweep.
Expected to be one of the stalwarts of Boston's rotation after posting 17 wins and a 2.33 ERA in a breakthrough 2010, Buchholz went 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA in 14 outings last season but did not pitch after June 16 due to a stress fracture in his lower back.
It's uncertain if Buchholz could have returned in October had the Red Sox reached the playoffs, but the right-hander will take the ball Sunday knowing he's again at full strength.
"It's more of a relaxed state of mind knowing that everything's fine and not having to worry about anything other than going out there and executing pitches and trying to help put this team in a position to win," Buchholz told the Red Sox's official website.
He'll be opposed by Max Scherzer (15-9, 4.43 ERA in 2011), who will seek a better result against Boston after going 0-2 with a 9.45 ERA the first three times he's faced the Red Sox.
Inconsistency has marked the hard-throwing right-hander's first two seasons in Detroit, as he's compiled a 2.11 ERA in 27 wins with the Tigers but a 7.78 ERA in 20 losses.
Boston designated hitter David Ortiz is 4 for 6 with two homers off Scherzer.
The Tigers are looking to start 3-0 for the first time since 2006, the season of their last World Series appearance.
- Boston Red Sox
- Prince Fielder
- Clay Buchholz