Red Sox look to close trip on high note

Red Sox look to close trip with win

DETROIT -- The Red Sox are a Thursday afternoon win away from flying home with their best road trip of the season.

Not only that, but it would give the Red Sox -- who enter the day tied with the Yankees for first place in the American League East -- their first three-game road sweep of the season.

Like every road trip the Sox have had in 2009, this one has had its ups and downs. But a closing victory over the Tigers would make for a 6-4 trip. The Red Sox split four games at Minnesota and lost two out of three in Toronto.

The 5-4 trip through Cleveland, Tampa Bay and New York from April 27-May 5 is the only winning trip Boston has had thus far on the season.

"I think it would be great," said Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell, who produced career hit No. 1,500 on Wednesday. "Three cities, usually that's a tough draw. I think it would be great, I really do. We have [Tim Wakefield], who has been solid for us all year. I think we've been swinging the bats well. We've been putting up some nice crooked numbers on the scoreboard. I think it would be a great way to come back home."

The Red Sox should have Kevin Youkilis in the lineup for the series finale. The first baseman was forced out of Wednesday's game in the eighth inning following a collision with Josh Anderson. Fortunately, Youkilis was kicked inadvertently in his right ankle by Anderson instead of spiked.

Thanks to Josh Beckett, who fired 7 2/3 brilliant innings in Wednesday's game, the Red Sox also come in to this one with a fresh bullpen.

"It's always important to win some games on the road," said Beckett. "Fortunately for us, we've played extremely well at home ... maybe it's not quite as glaring. If we weren't playing so well at home, maybe we'd be looking at that a little bit differently. We're just going to keep doing the things we're doing -- pitch well."

The one thing the Red Sox have done of late is hit. Coincidence or not, the lineup has scored five runs or more in each game of this three-game winning streak. This, with a new-look lineup of Dustin Pedroia leading off, followed by J.D. Drew, Youkilis, Jason Bay, Lowell and David Ortiz.

"I don't think the lineup has anything to do with how we play," said Pedroia. "Everyone is going out there trying to have good at-bats. It doesn't matter where we hit."

Pitching matchup
BOS: RHP Tim Wakefield (6-3, 4.55 ERA)
He was Boston's best starting pitcher for the first six weeks of the season. However, Wakefield has taken a downturn of late. The veteran knuckleballer has surrendered five runs or more in three of his past four starts. Most recently, Wakefield gave up nine hits and six runs over 4 2/3 innings in a loss to the Blue Jays. Wakefield has struggled on the road this season, going 2-3 with a 5.70 ERA. Lifetime at Comerica Park, Wakefield is 3-3 with a 10.21 ERA in 10 appearances. Against the Tigers in his career, Wakefield is 15-10 with a 4.20 ERA.

DET: LHP Dontrelle Willis (1-2, 5.56 ERA)
The Tigers are wondering which version of Willis will show up -- the somewhat effective lefty who compiled a 3.57 ERA through three starts after he was activated from the 15-day disabled list after being treated for an anxiety disorder, or the guy who threw batting practice to the Orioles on Friday. In a disastrous outing at Camden Yards, Willis surrendered seven runs on 10 hits over five innings and his ERA jumped almost two runs a game. Willis is at his best when his herky-jerky delivery makes it difficult for hitters to pick up pitches. But that only works when he has command of his pitches, something that deserted him against Baltimore.

The Red Sox are 14-16 on the road. ... Jacoby Ellsbury has 22 multihit games. ... Rocco Baldelli, who is likely to start against Willis, produced hit No. 500 off the bench on Wednesday.

 Buy tickets now to catch the game in person.

On the Internet
 Gameday Audio
•  Gameday
•  Official game notes

On television

On radio
• WEEI 850, SBN 1150 (Español)

Up next
• Friday: Red Sox (Brad Penny, 5-1, 5.63) vs. Rangers (Kevin Millwood, 4-4, 3.23), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Saturday: Red Sox (Jon Lester, 4-5, 5.65) vs. Rangers (Derek Holland, 1-2, 6.33), 7:10 p.m. ET
• Sunday: Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka, 1-3, 7.17) vs. Rangers (Vicente Padilla, 3-3, 5.57), 1:35 p.m. ET

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.