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As Expected, Josh Beckett And Justin Verlander Dueling In Boston

(Sports Network) - Another pitcher's duel could be on tap this evening when Boston's Josh Beckett, the American League's earned run average leader, takes on no-hit threat Justin Verlander of Detroit in the finale of a two-game series at Fenway Park.

Verlander and Beckett will go head-to-head just one day after the Tigers and Red Sox combined for only a run and nine hits in the opener. Fortunately for Boston, it came through with the sole run on Jarrod Saltalamacchia's RBI double in the eighth inning that scored Carl Crawford from first base.

"I got in a count where I could look fastball," said Saltalamacchia. "I was looking for a heater. I wasn't trying to do to much with it. The way things were going, you hit the ball and it was going right to somebody."

Clay Buchholz hurled seven shutout innings in a no-decision and Daniel Bard earned the win by throwing a perfect -- and rain-interrupted -- eighth.

Detroit did threaten in the ninth inning when former Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez led off the frame with a double and pinch-runner Andy Dirks moved to third on a ground out. However, Boston closer Jonathan Papelbon finished off the game with two strikeouts for his eighth save and Boston's season high- tying fifth straight victory that has them just 2 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East despite a 2-10 start.

Detroit's Phil Coke matched Buchholz, hurling seven scoreless innings of his own. Still, Detroit went 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position and has lost two in a row since a seven-game winning streak.

"It's just a shame we didn't get him a win tonight," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

Verlander was key over Detroit's recent win streak and he'll look to play stopper tonight. His second-career no-hitter versus Toronto on May 7 began the run and the righty extended it on Friday with a win over the Royals.

The 28-year-old was bidding to become just the second player in league history to throw consecutive no-hitters and caused some excitement by holding Kansas City without a hit for the first 5 2/3 innings. However, he eventually yielded a pair of hits and three walks with seven strikeouts over eight innings to win his second straight start.

"I started thinking about the no-hitter around the third or fourth inning," said Verlander, who is 4-3 with a 2.91 ERA this season. "I just kept making my pitches and didn't hold anything back."

Verlander draws a worthy foe tonight in Josh Beckett, who is 3-1 with an AL- best 1.75 ERA this season and hasn't allowed a run in 18 1/3 innings. Beckett extended his scoreless-innings run versus New York on Saturday with six shutout innings of four-hit ball to claim a 6-0 victory. He struck out nine to just two walks.

The right-hander hasn't lost since his season debut on April 5, but had posted four straight no-decisions before the win over New York.

"He had a good changeup today and we were able to use it against the lefties and righties," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek.

Beckett, who turned 31 last Sunday, has been nearly untouchable at home, where he is 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA in four starts this season, yielding just a run over 26 1/3 innings.

Both Beckett and Verlander have solid career numbers against their respective opponents. Detroit's ace is 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA in five career starts versus the Red Sox, while Beckett is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA in four outings against the Tigers.

The Red Sox and Tigers are meeting for the first time since splitting six matchups a year ago. Boston is 10-4 in the past 14 encounters with Detroit.

UPDATE:  Through five innings, the Red Sox lead 2-1 thanks to a solo home run by J.D. Drew. Verlander is out-pitching Beckett, though, with seven K's and zero walks through five innings. Beckett has benefited from some hard hit balls by the Tigers going straight to his fielders and the Tigers failing to capitalize with the bases loaded in the second inning.