Fresh off a sweep of the first-place Tampa Bay Rays, the Boston Red Sox finally seem as if they're close to putting their woeful start to the season behind them.
The key missing piece still: Chris Sale.
The left-hander seeks his first win of the year as Boston welcomes the Detroit Tigers on Monday to kick off a 10-game homestand.
Sale (0-4, 8.50 ERA) takes the mound in the opener of the four-game series opposite Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd (1-1, 2.96). Sale showed signs of having put it together in his last start against the New York Yankees before finishing with four runs allowed on seven hits in five innings.
"I just flat-out stink right now," Sale said after the defeat. "I don't know what it is. When you're going good, it's good. When you're going bad, it's pretty bad."
Sale should receive a boost from the rest of the team going good. Boston is riding a season-long three-game winning streak after an 11-inning victory Sunday, allowing the team to close its early gap from first place in the American League East to five games.
The weekend sweep featured Christian Vazquez having a key impact in each game, including hitting the game-winning sacrifice fly in the finale. Meanwhile, top prospect Michael Chavis made his major league debut with a big hit on Saturday, and reigning American League MVP Mookie Betts gathered some momentum with three straight multi-hit games.
"We did a good job over the weekend," Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. "But now we've got to go home and keep getting better. If we keep doing that, we're going to be in good shape."
The Tigers, meanwhile, put a lengthy funk of their own behind them by taking two of three from the Chicago White Sox over the weekend. Sunday's victory saw former top prospect Daniel Norris dominate over five innings and the bullpen hold on despite a White Sox three-run rally in the eighth.
"I enjoyed the game," Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire said. "It had a good pace to it. (Norris) was ahead in the count for the most part. And that's what you want out of a starting pitcher."
Boyd, who was originally scheduled to pitch Sunday before a rainout pushed him back, has been a strikeout machine in the early going for Detroit, twice reaching double digits in his first four starts. Against the Pittsburgh Pirates in his last outing, the left-hander punched out seven while allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings in a no-decision.
While Boyd has faced the Red Sox only four times, going 1-2 with a 5.71 ERA, Sale is very familiar with the Tigers from his time with the White Sox in the AL Central. Sale is 10-8 with a 2.94 ERA in 32 games (22 starts) against Detroit, including six shutout innings thrown in his only start against the team last season.
The Tigers are kicking off a nine-game road trip Monday that will also take them to Chicago and Philadelphia. Weather could play a factor in Boston, with late-night rain expected in the forecast for Monday's opener. The Tigers aren't scheduled to return to Fenway Park after this series this season.