Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers Series Preview

May 30, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Avisail Garcia (34) at the batting cage prior to playing the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. The Pittsburgh Pirates won 1-0 in eleven innings. - USA TODAY Sports

The Rays are in Detroit this week, not facing Verlander!

Though this doesn't preclude the Rays from facing decent pitching. The Tigers may have only 30 wins, but I'm willing to place that blame on the relief pitching. The starting rotation has put up 36 quality starts in 55 games, third best in the majors. Three of their starters have K/9's above 10.5, and the other two (Porcello, Fister) have allowed only eleven walks each.

Meanwhile, the team leader in saves is Papa Grande (Jose Valverde) with six. The shining star of the bullpen continues to be our old Joaquin Benoit, sporting a 31.5 K% (his best since leaving Tampa Bay in 2010). He owns seven holds on the season (comparable to Joel Peralta's 15). The Tigers will live and die by their bullpen, but the Rays will need to survive the Detroit offense.

As of June 4th, the Tigers rank 1st in AVG (.279), 1st in OBP (.346), 3rd in Runs Scored (285), and 6th in SLG (.431). That said, here's a stat-dump of the team's projected lineup:

2B Omar Infante 208 3 0.294 0.332 0.407 98 1.1
RF Torii Hunter 224 2 0.316 0.363 0.427 116 0.9
3B Miguel Cabrera 258 17 0.367 0.442 0.668 197 3.4
1B Prince Fielder 251 11 0.274 0.390 0.500 140 0.9
DH Victor Martinez 225 3 0.230 0.280 0.319 59 -1.2
SS Jhonny Peralta 218 6 0.332 0.378 0.487 133 2.1
LF Matt Tuiasosopo 71 2 0.333 0.465 0.491 167 0.4
C Brayan Pena 80 2 0.307 0.329 0.427 103 0.3
CF Avisail Garcia 41 2 0.256 0.293 0.462 101 0.2
OF Andy Dirks 187 5 0.247 0.306 0.371 84 1
OF Don Kelly 89 2 0.171 0.292 0.303 66 0.4
C Alex Avila 154 5 0.169 0.26 0.294 51 -0.3
IF Ramon Santiago 44 0 0.150 0.227 0.275 34 0

All stats via Fangraphs.*

Two players missing from this lineup are outfielders Austin Jackson and Quentin Berry. Jackson is still recovering from an injured hamstring, and to the chagrin of my fantasy team, hasn't even started rehabilitation yet. Berry was recently waived by the Tigers on Sunday, and was promptly claimed by the Kansas City Royals.

*Tigers in the starting lineup with positive FLD: Omar Infante (1.6), Johnny Peralta (1.5)

Starting Rotation

Tonight the Rays will face Angel Sanchez, this season's shiny new acquisition for Detroit. He averages about six innings game, with eight strikouts and two walks. He owns a traditional 4-seam, change and slider combinations, dabbling with a sinker that comes out of the hand like his fastball but breaks four times as hard, and an 80 MPH curve, though he rarely uses the latter two.

Doug Fister is coming off a hot start: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 0 ER and 12 K. He's not as well known for whiffing batters, but he can keep the ball in control. Fister loves his 90 MPH sinker (44% use), and then spreds his 4-seam, curve, cutter, and splitter evenly from there, though the split is primarily for LHH only. The latter three pitches are whiff worthy, and Fister has a strong tendency to earn groundballs.

Thursday's game will featuture Max Scherzer, who spun 80 IP with 3 ER, 2 BB and 10 K in his last outing. He has yet to be credited with a loss, and has allowed only 50 hits and 30 runs in 76 IP over 11 games. He can burn through a lineup and do so well. It's almost all fastball for Scherzer, a 95 MPH 4-seam with relatively normal movement. His change up is used 20% of the time and has a 10 MPH difference, but quite a different movement with almost no vertical movement to speak of, with three extra inches break. He also owns a swing-and-miss slider, and mostly uses it vs RHH.

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