With Beckett-Verlander, no hit parade tonight

May, 19, 2011
5/19/11
5:28
PM ET
BOSTON -- If recent results are an accurate predictor of future performance, the starting pitching matchup suggests that runs will be hard to come by in the finale of this brief, two-game set with the Tigers.

Josh Beckett takes the ball for the Red Sox tonight, and Justin Verlander does the same for the Tigers.

Verlander, of course, fired a no-hitter at the Blue Jays two starts ago. In his next start, all he did was hold the Royals hitless for 5 2/3 innings, threatening to become just the second pitcher in baseball history to throw back-to-back no-hitters. He finished that start with this line: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.

The recent run of dominance has improved Verlander's win-loss record to 4-3, his ERA to 2.91 (from 3.75 three starts ago) and his WHIP to 0.94.

“I mean, this guy tonight, you go into the game knowing you’re not gonna knock him around the ballpark,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Verlander in his pregame meeting with the media. “But if we can make him earn everything he gets, then maybe we get him out an inning early, maybe he makes a mistake. Because his stuff is phenomenal.”

That stuff includes a curveball, a changeup and a fastball that can hit triple digits on the radar gun. And unlike many flamethrowers, Verlander has an uncanny ability to maintain -- or even increase -- his velocity late in starts.

When a reporter reminded Francona that last year Verlander was throwing close to 100 mph late in his start against the Sox, the manager deadpanned: “I know, I appreciate you bringing that up. He has that ability. He certainly does.”

And while he hasn't flirted with no-hit history, Beckett's been no slouch himself of late. The big right-hander hasn't allowed a run in three May starts, spanning 17 1/3 innings, and has allowed just 11 hits and six walks while he's struck out 17. The consecutive blank slates have lowered Beckett's ERA to 1.75, though he collected only one win in the three-start span, last time out against the Yankees.

When it comes to the head-to-head matchup, Beckett has had a bit more success versus the Tigers than Verlander has had versus the Red Sox. Beckett is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA, an 0.87 WHIP and 29 K's against Detroit; Verlander checks in at 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and 30 K's against Boston. Beckett has held the Tigers to the lowest batting average (.170) of any team he's faced.

And then there's the fact Beckett is 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA at home this season.

Add in the unpleasant weather -- the tarp is back in its recently customary position over the infield, as the late-afternoon rain pelts down -- to the success of the starters and it would certainly seem that offense should be at a premium Thursday night.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and contributes to ESPNBoston.com.

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