Game Preview: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers

As if this current road trip wasn't hard enough, the Rays are wrapping things up tonight with one game in Detroit before flying home to face the Boston Red Sox tomorrow. This game is a make up game from the rain-out in Detroit earlier in the season, and thankfully the Rays have a better pitching matchup for them this time around: Alex Cobb (4.24 ERA, 3.96 FIP) versus Phil Coke (4.11 ERA, 3.69 FIP).

If I were the Rays, this is perfect (/note sarcasm). You're on your way back from an arduous West Coast road trip, and instead of getting to rest and recoup for one day at home, you fly up to Detroit for a night game before rushing down to Tampa Bay to open a three-game series against the first-place club in the AL East. Not only that, but this is a rather important series for the Rays: they're starting a stretch where they'll face the Red Sox and Yankees 14 times over the next month (well, plus a week), and how they perform in these games could do a lot toward shaping their playoff hopes. So yes, I'm very glad that MLB decided to reschedule this game for right now -- it's exactly what the Rays need.

That said, tonight's game could certainly be worse: the Rays have Alex Cobb pitching for them, who has been a huge step up over Andy Sonnanstine so far. After struggling in his first start earlier this season, Cobb has done much better in his two recent starts, lasting 6.1 innings in each of them while only allowing a four runs in total. He hasn't been a stud -- he's allowed a bit over a baserunner an inning, and his 7:4 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn't ideal -- but he's got the job done and displayed much better stuff than Sonnanstine. This may be one of his last starts in the majors for a while, as Jeff Niemann is making a rehab start in Triple-A today as well and isn't far away from returning, so enjoy watching him while you can.

The Tigers aren't pushovers -- they're currently tied for first place in the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians, and their offense is dangerous with Miguel Cabrera (.420 wOBA) and Victor Martinez (.376 wOBA) in there. Phil Coke has had some struggles with his strikeout and whiff rates since transitioning back to the starting rotation this season, but I also wouldn't write him off; the Rays have struggled against pitchers far worse than him this season. You just have to trust that the Rays' offense is finally back in line after scoring 16 runs over the last two days.

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