BOSTON -- The Detroit Tigers earned a hard-fought victory over the Boston Red Sox on Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Then again, every victory for the Tigers has been hard-fought in the eyes of manager Brad Ausmus -- and he expects more of the same Tuesday night.
"I don't think it's ever easy, or rarely easy," Ausmus said Monday after Detroit's 4-2 victory over Boston.
Justin Verlander pitched six one-run innings and Jose Iglesias burned his former team with his first career homer at Fenway as Detroit (52-48) bounced back from a rough day Sunday.
The Tigers lost a pair of one-run contests Sunday to the White Sox in Chicago -- 4-3 in the completion of a suspended game from Saturday, then 5-4 in the regularly scheduled contest.
The Monday victory brought Detroit within 5 1/2 games of the American League Central-leading Cleveland Indians and within four games of the second AL wild-card spot.
Boston, meanwhile, fell 2 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Baltimore Orioles.
The Red Sox (55-42) still have a 1/2 game lead for the first wild card after going 13-6 in July.
Detroit looks to clinch the series in Boston when it sends out Mike Pelfrey (3-9, 4.78 ERA) for a Tuesday start.
The right-hander has permitted exactly one run in three of his past four starts, with the outlier being a five-run defeat July 16 against the Kansas City Royals.
Last Thursday, Pelfrey limited the White Sox to one run on eight hits and a walk with one strikeout in 5 1/3 innings. He got the win as the Tigers held on for a 2-1 decision.
Pelfrey is 1-1 with a 1.71 ERA in three starts lifetime against the Red Sox, but 0-1 with a 1.93 mark in two starts at Fenway. He took a hard-luck loss June 2, 2015, in Boston, holding the Red Sox to one run on five hits in a 1-0 defeat.
Red Sox utility man Michael Martinez, who faced Pelfrey as a member of AL Central-rival Cleveland, is 3-for-7 (.429) with a home run and four RBIs against him.
Hanley Ramirez hasn't been as lucky, going 10-for-53 (.189) with a homer, three RBIs and eight strikeouts vs. Pelfrey.
Boston will turn to Steven Wright (12-5, 2.67 ERA) to be the stopper for a team that has lost three of four.
The knuckleballer has been one of two aces -- the other being Rick Porcello -- on a Boston staff that hasn't gotten much from highly paid lefty David Price.
Wright has pitched especially well this season at Fenway, going 7-1 with a 3.20 ERA in 10 home starts.
He picked up a victory there Thursday against the Minnesota Twins, throwing eight innings and allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits and a walk while striking out a career-high-tying nine.
"My goal is just to go as deep as I can until they tell me I'm done," Wright said Thursday.
Wright has made one career start against the Tigers, surrendering four runs on five hits in a 4 1/3-inning loss last July 25. Nick Castellanos (1-for-2 versus Wright) had a two-run double against him in that game.
Iglesias is also 1-for-2 with a double, Victor Martinez is 1-for-1 with a walk and James McCann is 0-for-2, but he has an RBI against Wright.