The Detroit Tigers cannot escape reminders of what they used to be.
They faced their former ace, Justin Verlander, in the last game before the All-Star break on Sunday. Upon returning from a four-day hiatus, they run into one of the league's premier sluggers, another player they traded away last season to enter a rebuilding phase.
J.D. Martinez and American League East-leading Boston (68-30) begin a weekend series in Detroit on Friday night.
Detroit blindsided Verlander in Houston, hitting four homers against him in a 6-3 victory. That snapped a six-game losing streak and gave the Tigers (41-57) a little boost heading into their mini-vacation.
"It still doesn't take away from how good that guy is," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We all know he's a great pitcher and we were fortunate to be able to bang him around a little bit."
The Tigers are also fully aware how good Martinez is. He revived his career in Motown, blasting 99 homers in 3 1/2 seasons before he was dealt to Arizona for prospects during his walk year.
Martinez remained on the free-agent market longer than expected before he finally reached an agreement with the Red Sox. He has been even better than advertised and has a shot at the Triple Crown. He's tied for the major-league lead in homers (29) and leads the pack in RBIs (80). He's also third in batting average (.328).
Martinez enjoyed his time in Detroit, but is thrilled to be with a contender
"It's awesome. It's a blessing," he said at an All-Star press conference. "It's a dream to be in this uniform. It was my childhood dream. They were my favorite team."
Red Sox fans are rejoicing over their team's success. Boston holds a 4 1/2-game lead over the New York Yankees and plays its next 10 games against opponents with losing records.
"We have a lot of young guys that every day, they continue to get better and continue to develop," Martinez said. "It's exciting. The fact we've been playing so well has been fun."
Another former Tigers player, left-hander David Price (10-6, 4.42 ERA), is scheduled to pitch on Friday. Price has struggled in his last three outings, giving up 15 earned runs and eight homers. He is 5-1 with a 2.40 ERA in eight career appearances against the Tigers.
He'll be opposed by another left-hander, Matthew Boyd (4-8, 4.76 ERA). He's winless in his last six starts while being charged with the loss in four of those outings.
His last victory came June 7 in Boston, when he held the Red Sox to two runs and four hits in 6 1/3 innings. Overall, he's 1-1 with a 7.20 ERA in three career starts against Boston.
The Red Sox won the first two games of the season series by a combined score of 13-1 before Boyd's strong performance salvaged the finale for Detroit.
Martinez had three hits, including a homer, in 10 official at-bats during those three games.
Martinez has scored at least one run in 17 of the last 21 games that he has played. He had a 10-game hitting streak snapped against Toronto during the last game before the break.