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20-21

Tigers-Red Sox Preview

AP - Sports

Max Scherzer has been one of the best pitchers in baseball though eight starts, but he's yet to face the Boston Red Sox.

The defending World Series champions tend to level him out.

The right-hander will try to overcome such struggles and match a career high by winning a sixth straight start Friday night against Jon Lester as the Detroit Tigers vie for their longest road winning streak in 30 years.

"Any time you're facing a great team like that, it's going to be a battle," Scherzer told the team's official website. "That's what makes it fun. For me, it's always fun going in there and playing the Red Sox at Fenway Park."

His numbers don't agree with his adjectives. Scherzer (5-1, 2.04 ERA) is 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA in regular-season matchups with the Red Sox, and including the playoffs, the Tigers (24-12) have lost his last four starts at Fenway.

David Ortiz, batting .515 with five home runs on an eight-game hitting streak, is 7 for 15 with three home runs against him in the regular season.

The Red Sox (20-20), though, haven't faced Scherzer in this kind of a groove. His last five starts have produced a 5-0 record, 1.64 ERA and .186 opponent batting average with 41 strikeouts in 33 innings.

His only better run of victories in consecutive starts came in six from June 6-July 3 during his 2013 AL Cy Young Award campaign.

Lester (4-4, 2.75) has been similarly dominant in a shorter stretch with consecutive victories in which he's allowed three runs and five hits while striking out 23 in 15 innings.

He considered surrendering three runs and four hits in seven innings of Saturday's 8-3 win over Texas "a grind" and is expecting a different kind of grind against the stingy Scherzer.

"I'm not pitching against that guy, but at the same time you are," Lester told the team's official website. "You know what you're up against. You know that guy's name and his track record and what they've been able to do. At the same time, you have to worry about the lineup and try not to give up as many as the other guy. You know it's going to be a grind from pitch one."

Lester played a key role in defeating the Tigers in last year's AL championship series, going 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA. Including that series, the Red Sox are 21-8 against the Tigers at Fenway since the start of 2007.

Lester, too, has struggled with his opposition's slugger as Miguel Cabrera has gone 10 for 19 with a homer and five walks against him.

The first baseman, batting .371 with 16 RBIs in his last nine games, drove in two runs in Wednesday's 7-5 win at Baltimore to help Detroit (24-12) complete a three-game sweep and extend its road winning streak to eight. The Tigers haven't had a better such run since opening their World Series-winning 1984 season with 17 straight road wins.

"It's increasingly tough on the road," manager Brad Ausmus said. "To come away with a sweep against a very good team like the Orioles is a huge bonus. We'll get out of town before they decide to add a fourth game to the series."

Victor Martinez has been a big part of their road success with a .412 average away from Detroit. The designated hitter is batting .400 with six home runs and 15 RBIs in his last 16 games overall.

Boston completed a 3-3 road trip with Thursday's 4-3 loss to Minnesota in 10 innings. After the Red Sox tied the game in the ninth, reliever Andrew Miller allowed his second walk-off hit in three days in the 10th.

Shane Victorino was out of the lineup Thursday and is said to be resting a sore left knee.

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