Tigers-Red Sox Preview

The Associated Press

Miguel Cabrera's return to the lineup did little to ignite Detroit's offense, and now the Tigers will be without their slugger again.

The Boston Red Sox hope getting Jacoby Ellsbury back at the top of their batting order can provide a spark.

The Tigers and Red Sox meet Wednesday night at Fenway Park to conclude a series between baseball's top two offenses that has been dominated by pitchers.

After dropping Monday's opener 3-0, Boston (83-57) retook a 1 1/2-game lead over Detroit (81-58) for the AL's best record with a 2-1 victory Tuesday. The teams have combined for 29 hits in 129 at-bats for a .225 average - a feeble display for these two potent offenses.

Tuesday's game, however, had a stellar pitching matchup. Jon Lester outdueled Max Scherzer, denying him a chance to become the second pitcher to open a season with a 20-1 record.

"We've got two of the top teams in the American League. We've got great pitchers on both sides going at it. This is what's going to happen,'' Scherzer said.

The game featured the return of Cabrera, who missed three contests with abdominal and groin problems, but Cabrera wasn't in the starting lineup for Wednesday's contest. Manager Jim Leyland told reporters "he's a little sore'' before the lineup was posted in the locker room.

The Red Sox expect Ellsbury to return after he sat out Tuesday because of a sore left thumb. Manager John Farrell had said his leadoff hitter is likely going to have to deal with the soreness for the remainder of the season, and he'll be given occasional days off to rest.

"Everyday players at this time of the year are going to be dealing with certain things," Farrell told the Red Sox's official website. "His happens to be in his left hand."

Ellsbury has played a big part in Boston's success, batting .379 with four stolen bases and eight runs in the last seven games, and the club is 15-3 when he scores a run since the All-Star break.

Getting him back for the finale seems like a good plan considering he has routinely frustrated scheduled starter Rick Porcello, going 6 for 7 with a homer and double.

Porcello (11-7, 4.44 ERA) allowed two runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings in Friday's 7-2 win over Cleveland. It was the 10th time in 11 starts the right-hander yielded three runs or less.

Porcello has been at his best on the road, going 4-0 with a 2.53 ERA in his last five outings away from Detroit.

He has struggled in his last two starts against the Red Sox, posting a 10.38 ERA, but has yet to face them in 2013.

Boston's turns to Ryan Dempster (7-9, 4.75), which could help both team's offenses come around.

Dempster has a 6.45 ERA in his last eight starts, but the Red Sox have won seven of them, backing the right-hander with an average of 6.9 runs of support.

Dempster pitched well enough to win on his own against the Chicago White Sox on Friday, permitting three runs and five hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-3 victory. It was his first start following a five-game suspension for hitting Alex Rodriguez with a pitch on Aug. 18.

"I'm glad I could just slide in and do a little bit of my part,'' he said

Dempster isn't too familiar with the Tigers, against whom he has not started since 2002 and faced since 2006.

Torii Hunter, though, is 6 for 9 lifetime against him, but 4 for 21 (.190) with no walks in his last five games.

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