Division leaders square off at Comerica Park

Division leaders square off at Comerica Park, as the Detroit Tigers play host to the Boston Red Sox in the opener of a four-game set.

Boston entered the day with a 1 1/2-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Red Sox were unable to complete a three-game sweep over Tampa Bay on Wednesday as they fell, 6-2. Both of those runs came on infield singles and Boston was out-hit, 15-7.

The Red Sox have plated more runs than any team in the majors this season, although they have averaged only 3 runs over their last nine games. Things won't get any easier against the Tigers and their pitching staff.

"We're going to get challenged in Detroit," manager John Farrell said. "We know that. But I like to think they're probably going to feel the same when we leave there."

Detroit leads the Indians by 3 1/2 games in the AL Central. However, the Tigers began a 10-game homestand by dropping two of three to Baltimore this week.

They were on the wrong end of a 13-3 decision in Wednesday's series finale, as the Orioles scored their most runs in a game since 2010. Tigers starter Rick Porcello gave up six runs over six innings, and three relievers combined to give up seven more runs over the next three frames.

Detroit will hope for a little more magic from Jose Alvarez, who took a no- hitter into the fifth inning of his big league debut against Cleveland on June 9. The 24-year-old lefty held the Indians to one run on three hits over six innings, striking out seven and walking one. That performance earned him a second opportunity when Anibal Sanchez was placed on the disabled list this week.

"He came up and did a wonderful job," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he'll do fine if he has that same presence. The kid did a fantastic job. And we said if something came up, he would deserve a start, and we're giving him a start."

Taking the hill for Boston is veteran John Lackey, who has quietly posted a 2.39 ERA while going 3-1 over his last six starts. He gave up a pair of first- inning runs in Baltimore on Saturday but surrendered nothing after that and exited after seven innings.

"Just kind of slowed it down, tried to make some pitches, minimize some damage and kind of got settled in a little bit," Lackey said. "You can't really do much about the first couple guys getting on once they're on, so you just try to minimize it the best you can."

This marks the first meeting of the season between these two clubs. They split 10 meetings last season.