The most productive offenses in baseball have lifted the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers to the AL's top records.
The availability of the majors' best hitter for a showdown between the clubs remains uncertain.
A banged-up Miguel Cabrera has sat out the last two days heading into Monday's opener of a three-game set at Fenway Park, where his Tigers have been awful over the past decade.
An abdominal strain kept Cabrera sidelined over the weekend after it caused him to leave games early Thursday and Friday. The injury bothered him throughout August - he's also battled hip and leg problems - and manager Jim Leyland said he's unsure when Cabrera will return.
"According to the medical people, that thing can heal while playing," said Leyland, whose club was 8-1 without the reigning AL Triple Crown winner until falling 4-0 to Cleveland on Sunday.
Cabrera has hit .418 with five homers and 18 RBIs in his last 13 games against Boston, going 8 for 15 as Detroit took three of four June 20-23 in the teams' first series.
Both clubs' division leads have since increased. The Red Sox (82-56) are atop the East with the AL's best record, having won seven of eight, and the Tigers (80-57) lead the Central by 7 1/2 games.
Detroit's 699 runs scored are one more than Boston, and no other team is within 40. Led by Cabrera's major league-best .358 average, the Tigers are batting .286 to lead the majors and Boston is next at .274.
Detroit heads into a nine-game trip with an AL-best 19-8 road record since July 2, but is 9-30 at Fenway since the start of 2003, losing 11 of 12 series there.
The Tigers will face a pitcher who has excelled at Fenway in John Lackey (8-11, 3.19). The right-hander is 5-2 with a 2.24 ERA in 10 home starts, though he's been pitching well nearly everywhere despite a 1-5 record in eight outings since the All-Star break.
Lackey received no run support in half of those games. He's provided quality starts in three straight and five of six, and he's pitched into the seventh inning in 14 consecutive starts.
"I would like to have more wins than I have right now, but that's not the goal," Lackey told the team's official website. "The goal is for the team to win games."
He threw seven innings of two-run ball at Detroit on June 20, but Boston's bullpen blew a late lead in the 4-3 loss. He's 6-2 with a 3.87 ERA against the Tigers.
Counterpart Doug Fister (11-7, 3.81) has not done as well against his opponent. He's pitched a combined 8 1-3 innings in losing his last two starts to the Red Sox, surrendering six runs and 11 hits in each.
The right-hander was similarly shelled Wednesday, allowing season highs of seven runs and 13 hits in a 14-4 loss to Oakland. Fister was 5-1 with a 2.39 ERA in his previous eight outings.
"Fister today was just a little up, not as sharp with the sinker as he has been pretty much the last few months," catcher Alex Avila told the Tigers' official website. "... It was kind of like a hiccup. Get it over with and move on."
Shane Victorino was 3 for 3 with a homer off Fister in Boston's 10-6 win June 21, but his status is unclear after leaving Sunday with a bruised hip.
Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson may miss a second straight game with a shoulder injury.
Victor Martinez has been hot for the Tigers, hitting .531 over his past eight games, and he's 10 for 24 (.417) off Lackey.
David Ortiz is 5 for 9 with six RBIs following an 0-for-23 drought, moving within two hits of 2,000, and he's batted .442 in his last 11 games against Detroit.
|August 24, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|August 17, 2013||Omar Infante||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back stiffness|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 31, 2013||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Strained lower abdomen|
|July 31, 2013||Luis Marte||60-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|Boston Red Sox|
|September 01, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left hip contusion|
|August 29, 2013||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder irritation|
|August 17, 2013||Mike Napoli||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 05, 2013||Matt Thornton||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
BOSTON (AP) -- Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland had a theory about why Doug Fister looked completely different after a shaky start.
Fister walked three and plunked a hitter in the first seven batters he faced, but settled down to throw seven shutout innings as Tigers beat the Boston Red Sox 3-0 Monday in a matchup of teams with the AL's best records.
"This is what I think, and I'm probably crazy," the veteran manager said. "People have talked about this park for 100 years and I think at the beginning of the game he was being a little bit careful, and I thought he got more aggressive as the game went on - and I thought it helped him."
"Early on, I think he was being careful like a 1,000 pitchers have done before him. It's hard to convince him that you have to be aggressive in this ballpark because if you don't you'll get burnt. I don't have idea if that's accurate, but that's what it seemed like to me," he said.
Fister (12-7) rebounded from a miserable start in his previous outing, holding Boston to four hits while walking four and striking out four. In his last start, he gave up 13 hits and seven runs in a loss to Oakland.
"Keeping the ball down, throwing pitches that I needed to induce the double plays," the right-hander said was the difference.
The Tigers won despite missing Miguel Cabrera for the third straight game. He has been sidelined by a strained abdomen, though general manager Dave Dombrowski said the Triple Crown winner has been more hampered by a groin problem.
"I feel better," Cabrera said as he stopped briefly while walking through the clubhouse.
Asked if he thought he'd play on Tuesday, the slugger smiled and said, "I hope so."
Prince Fielder and Andy Dirks each drove in a run for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who won for the fourth time in five games.
The AL East-leading Red Sox lost for just the second time in nine games.
John Lackey (8-12) was the tough-luck loser, giving up three runs on seven hits over 7 1-3 innings. It was the 11th time Boston's been shutout, six coming when he's pitched.
"I don't know exactly (why)," he said when asked about the lack of run support. "I haven't looked that close at it."
Jose Veras , the fourth Tigers pitcher, worked the ninth for his 21st save and second with Detroit, finishing the six-hit shutout.
The Tigers turned three double plays, two in the opening two innings.
"(Fister) got a number of ground-ball double plays when he needed to," Boston manager John Farrell said. "Opportunities the first, the second, the fifth, then again in the seventh. We put men on base, just didn't get a timely hit."
Detroit broke a scoreless tie with two runs in the seventh. Victor Martinez singled leading off and scored on Dirks' triple to the triangle just over the glove of center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury . Dirks scored on a double-play grounder, making it 2-0.
Fielder's sacrifice fly made it 3-0 in eighth.
The Red Sox didn't get their first hit off Fister until Daniel Nava , who went 3 for 3 with two doubles, singled with two outs in the fourth.
Boston had the first two runners reach in the seventh, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia bunted into a forceout at third and the next two hitters bounced out.
Austin Jackson opened the game with a double, but Lackey got the next three hitters - with help from second baseman Dustin Pedroia , who ranged far to his left to make a play on Martinez's inning-ending grounder.
NOTES: Cabrera took batting practice with the Tigers' starters and looked as if he was swinging freely. He was smiling when he walked off. He stopped to sign autographs and take a few pictures with fans on the field near the Tigers' dugout. "He was in good spirits and I think he was feeling much, much better to be honest with you," Leyland said after the game. ... Fielder hit third for the first time since Aug. 3, 2010. ... A male fan was hit in the head by a foul ball off the bat of Victorino in the sixth inning, but he walked up for medical help with a towel over his face. ... Farrell said RHP Clay Buchholz , on the DL since early June with a strained neck, will make his third rehab start Thursday instead of Wednesday because his wife is expected to have labor induced for the birth of their second child. ... Leyland spoke highly of SS Jose Iglesias , acquired from Boston in a multiplayer deal on July 30. "He's very gifted, he's very competitive and very instinctive," he said. "This kid's a very interesting guy, very talented. We're very fortunate to have him. We were lucky to get somebody like that when we were in dire need of somebody." ... Leyland gave closer Joaquin Benoit the day off after he pitched in three of the previous four games.