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Tigers look to knuckle down

Tigers look to knuckle down

The Tigers no longer have to hear this series about the gyroball, not that they believe in it anyway. They do, however, believe in the knuckleball, and they'll see plenty of those on Tuesday.

The Tigers' history with Tim Wakefield runs the gamut of performances. Wakefield gave up three runs in seven innings and lost in their most recent meeting last June at Comerica Park, but he won with much the same numbers the year before. He gave up six home runs in five innings on Aug. 8, 2004, in Detroit, then came back to scatter a run on three hits over eight innings for a victory at Fenway Park exactly three weeks later.

This year, all of his outings have been nasty. Wakefield hasn't allowed a run in 14 innings over two starts in May, posting back-to-back performances of seven innings with three hits allowed. He has served up just two home runs all season, and has posted quality starts in all but one of his outings. His 1.79 ERA is the best in the American League.

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It's the best start to a season for a 15-year veteran whose career began with the 1992 Pittsburgh Pirates under manager Jim Leyland, who still keeps in touch with him.

"He's one of the all-time professional people in the game," Leyland said.

He's also an interesting test for a Tigers lineup that hit one ground ball out after another against Daisuke Matsuzaka's combination of fastball and cutter in a 7-1 loss on Monday, just the second time this month that Detroit's offense scored fewer than three runs in a game. The Tigers entered the night leading the Majors with a .318 average in May.

Pitching matchup
DET: RHP Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.83 ERA)
Although Verlander is a power pitcher, he pitches well to contact, which was both good and bad in his last start against the Mariners. Verlander walked just one over 5 1/3 innings in the Tigers' 7-3 win, but he allowed nine hits, all of them singles. He got the win, but Leyland would like to see Verlander decrease his pitch count so he can pitch further into games. Verlander, who threw 98 against the Mariners, said he is trying to throw his changeup more often to right-handers to prevent them from sitting on his 99-mph fastball.

BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (4-3, 1.79 ERA)
The knuckleballer is on one of those red-hot streaks he's been known for over the years. In fact, Wakefield has not been scored on in 14 innings over his last two starts, which were both victories. In all seven of his starts, he's allowed three earned runs or less. This will be Wakefield's third start of the season at Fenway. Lifetime against the Tigers, Wakefield is 13-9 with a 4.41 ERA.

Player to watch
Magglio Ordonez is 13-for-30 lifetime against Wakefield with five doubles, a home run and five RBIs.

On the Internet
 MLB.TV
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television
• FSN Detroit

On radio
• WXYT-AM 1270

Up next
• Wednesday: Tigers (Mike Maroth, 3-0, 4.69) at Red Sox (Julian Tavarez, 1-4, 6.60), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Thursday: Tigers (Chad Durbin, 3-1, 5.08) at Red Sox (Curt Schilling, 4-1, 3.63), 7:05 p.m. ET
• Friday: Cardinals (Braden Looper, 5-2, 2.29) at Tigers (Jeremy Bonderman, 2-0, 4.20), 7:05 p.m. ET

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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