The Red Sox have thrived against southpaw starters this season, and they will line up against another one Friday when they travel to Detroit to take on Drew Smyly and the Tigers.
Although its batting splits are just slightly better against lefties, Boston is 13-8 in games started by lefties this season and just 14-24 against righties. The Tigers will face hard-throwing righty Rubby De La Rosa, who was brilliant in his first start of the season for the Red Sox.
De La Rosa threw seven shutout innings, with no walks and eight strikeouts in a 7-1 win over the Rays on Saturday. He got the call from Triple-A Pawtucket in place of Clay Buchholz, who hit the disabled list last week. In 10 Minor League starts this season, De La Rosa posted a 3.04 ERA and .218 opponents' batting average.
"I know I've heard whispers about how good this kid can be, and I saw little glimpses of it in Spring Training," Boston catcher A.J. Pierzynski said after the win. "But to actually see him do it on this stage, in this situation … was impressive, and hopefully he learns from it, gains confidence, and builds on it."
Smyly, meanwhile, began the season in the Tigers' bullpen, making two appearances before joining the rotation. He's made eight starts, posting a 4.79 ERA with a .280/.350/.494 slash line against. Smyly also pitched an inning in relief on May 22 before giving up six runs and eight hits on short rest in a May 26 start against the Athletics.
The 24-year-old Smyly lasted just four innings in his last outing, surrendering seven hits and three runs against the Mariners. He threw 105 pitches.
"Every time he'd get ahead, it just seemed like they'd work their way back into 3-2 counts," manager Brad Ausmus said following a 3-2 loss to Seattle. "He had to throw a bunch of pitches early. After a hundred pitches, it was time to get him out."
The Tigers swept the Red Sox in mid-May, outscoring them, 13-3, and exacting a small amount of revenge from last postseason. Boston defeated Detroit in six games in the 2013 American League Championship Series en route to the World Series.
But now, the Tigers have dropped five in a row and 13 of their last 17. The Red Sox dropped 10 in a row, then won seven straight before being swept in a three-game set by the Indians earlier this week.
"When things are going well, you think you're never going to lose. When things are going bad, you feel like you're never going to win," Ausmus said. "You have to keep the big picture in mind. You take a snapshot of the last few weeks for them, and it's a perfect example."
Tigers: Suarez day-to-day with left knee injury
The Tigers have struggled to find consistency at shortstop this season and have turned to 22-year-old Eugenio Suarez to find it, but his Major League debut had to be put on hold for at least another day. He was called up Wednesday and infielder Danny Worth was designated for assignment.
Suarez, Detroit's No. 6 prospect according to MLB.com, slid awkwardly into second in the seventh inning of Wednesday night's game after replacing Andrew Romine and did not play Thursday.
"He was a little sore this morning," Ausmus said. "As of right now, he's day to day."
Suarez began the season in Double-A Erie and has a .288/.360/.510 slash line in 222 plate appearances between Erie and Triple-A Toledo.
Red Sox: Buchholz throws successful bullpen
Buchholz threw a 35-pitch 'pen session Wednesday and will throw a simulated game Saturday. He's been on the disabled list since May 27 with a hyperextended left knee.
"[Buchholz] threw all his pitches. He's continuing to repeat the delivery adjustments that we've outlined," manager John Farrell said. "He came away from today encouraged by the way he threw the baseball."
• The only Tiger to face De La Rosa is catcher Bryan Holaday, who singled in his only at-bat. De La Rosa spent the first part of his career with the Dodgers before coming to the Red Sox as part of the deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto to Los Angeles.
• A potential loss to the Red Sox on Friday would be Detroit's sixth straight. That would be its longest losing streak since dropping seven in a row from April 26-May 2, 2011.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.