When the Tigers and Red Sox take the field at Fenway Park on Friday night for the opener of a three-game series, it will be hard not to flash back to last October, when they squared off in an epic American League Championship Series.
Despite glittering starting pitching by Detroit, the Red Sox somehow prevailed in six games and went on to win the World Series.
Perhaps the Tigers are still motivated from their near miss. They open this series with the best record in the American League at 24-12.
Fittingly, the series will start with a marquee pitching matchup between Jon Lester and Max Scherzer.
"It's the drawback and the perk of starting Opening Day," said Lester. "You know that every five days, you're going to face the other team's best. I'm not pitching against that guy, but at the same time you are. 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."
Including his two starts in the 2013 ALCS, Scherzer has pitched six times at Fenway Park, going 1-3 with a 3.46 ERA.
"It's such a great atmosphere," said Scherzer, who won the Cy Young Award last season. "The fans there make it great."
When Scherzer left the mound in the seventh inning of Game 6, the Tigers had a 2-1 lead and were just eight outs from forcing Game 7.
Moments later, Shane Victorino hit a grand slam to turn the series in Boston's favor.
"Any time you're facing a great team like that, it's going to be a battle," Scherzer said. "That's what makes it fun. For me, it's always fun going in there and playing the Red Sox at Fenway Park."
Scherzer is coming off one of his toughest outings of the season against the Twins, though he still lasted six innings and earned his fifth win. He had some control problems, which he knows won't do the trick against a lineup like Boston's.
Though Lester's record is an unspectacular 4-4, he has pitched tremendous baseball this season.
The lefty has gone seven innings or more in six of his eight starts and has allowed more than three earned runs just once.
"I feel good," said Lester. "I feel good with where I'm at. I feel good mechanically and physically and all that. I'll just continue to take the ball. I'm not worried about stat lines, as long as I give the team a chance to win. I'll just keep pitching."
Tigers: Putkonen may rejoin team after rehab assignment
Luke Putkonen might make one more rehab appearance for Triple-A Toledo before rejoining the Tigers bullpen, manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday.
Tigers officials were planning to discuss the possibility on Wednesday after Putkonen gave up three singles and a grand slam in his second inning of work for Toledo on Tuesday night.
Mud Hens manager Larry Parrish told the Toledo Blade there was some issue with Putkonen's stuff.
"I didn't think he had the pop on his fastball, the movement," Parrish told The Blade's John Wagner. "There were also some things we don't want to talk about, but that we might be able to help him with."
Putkonen made three rehab appearances over the past week between Toledo and Class A West Michigan. He went on the 15-day disabled list a few weeks ago with right elbow inflammation.
Red Sox: Farrell wants to get Mujica more work
Red Sox manager John Farrell admits he's caught in between a little with struggling setup man Edward Mujica.
The righty needs more frequent work to get in a groove. Yet, it's hard to get him in close games when he's not pitching well.
"It's two outings, I think, in about a two-week span," said Farrell. "I temper it with ... he needs a little bit more frequent work. I don't necessarily see any restrictions physically after he felt something in the oblique. Still, he's a guy that's had a lot of success and we have to get him going."
• The Tigers won the 2013 regular-season series, 4-3, against the Red Sox before losing the ALCS in six games.
• Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has hit well against Scherzer, going 7-for-15 with three homers.
• Miguel Cabrera has similarly strong numbers against Lester, going 10-for-19 with a homer and five RBIs.