The Tampa Bay Rays (41-38) will take on the Detroit Tigers (42-35) in a three game weekend series at Tropicana Field. The Tigers enter this weekend scuffling after a 4-6 home stand which concluded with a three game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Angels.
The pitching matchups will be Alex Colome (1-0, 0.00 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (11-0, 3.05 ERA) on Friday at 7:10 p.m., Chris Archer (2-3, 4.21 ERA) vs Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.90 ERA) on Saturday night at 7:15 p.m., and Jeremy Hellickson (6-3, 5.11 ERA) vs Rick Porcello (4-5, 5.27 ERA) on Sunday afternoon at 1:40 p.m.
The Rays have been dominated by the Detroit Tigers over the past several seasons.Since 2010 the Rays have a record of 4-13 and the Tigers pitching staff has held the Rays to 4 earned runs or less in 15 consecutive games.
Tigers Offense Leads The Way
As expected the Tigers offense has been one of the best in baseball ranking 2nd in the American League behind the Boston Red Sox at 5.02 runs per game and they lead the AL in batting average (.283), and on-base% (.351).
Miguel Cabrera & The Tiger Offense
The Tigers offense is once again led by Miguel Cabrera who is following up his MVP Triple Crown season with another monster season. Not even at the midway point of the 2013 season and he has a slash line of .370/.460/.657 with 111 hits including 22 home runs, 78 RBI, and 59 runs scored. Joe Maddon has made it a point to not allow Cabrera to be the guy that beat the Rays. In 2012 he intentionally walked him twice in key situations and has already matched the total of intentional walks in 2013.
The Tigers bullpen has been their Achilles heel through most of the season. Early on in the season they had to battle through closer issues finally re-signing Jose Valverde who was effective in his first handful of appearances before imploding to the point of being designated for assignment. Their bullpen is shielded by their starting pitchers who deliver a lot of innings resulting in a bullpen with the third fewest innings in the league. The Tigers offense puts up enough runs that the pen isn't called upon in tight games. They have only 16 saves on the season, 9 blown saves, and have a W-L record of 6-13.
The bullpen currently consists of closer Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke (LH), Drew Smyly (LH), Al Alburquerque, Luke Putkonen, Evan Reed, and former Rays farmhand Darin Downs (LH).
The Rays will face Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander, and Rick Porcello.
Scherzer has been absolutely dominant in compiling an 11-0 record. He leads the AL in wins with 11, is second in strike out rate at 31% while having a low walk rate of 6.1%. He last faced the Boston Red Sox on June 22nd and held them to 2R/ER on 6 hits in 7 innings of work. He struck out 6 Red Sox to extend his streak of games with at least 6 strike out to 16 in a row to start a season. He is now chasing the AL record of 29 staright games held by Pedro Martinez in 2000. He has been given the highest run support of any pitcher in the AL this year at 6.33 runs per start.
He faced the Rays on June 6th and went 7 innings allowing 1R/ER on 4 hits striking out 9 while walking 2. He hasn't given up more than 3ER in a start since May 10th against the Cleveland Indians a game in which the Tigers won 10-4.
By Verlander standards the 2013 season has been a struggle. Over his last 8 starts he has a 6.11 ERA and has a record of 4-2. He has worked 45.2 innings, allowed 55 hits, struck out 53, walked 17, and allowed 6 home runs. In seasons past when he was on the mound a start of 6 innings was more was all but guaranteed as he delivered 63 such starts in a row. In 2013 he has failed to go 6 innings in 6 of his 16 starts. Despite his struggles he still ranks 4th in the major leagues with a strike out rate of 10.21 K/9.
His last start was against the Boston Red Sox on June 23rd and he went 5 innings allowing 4R/ER on 7 hits striking out 4 and walking 3.
Porcello numbers look bad with a record of 4-5 with an ERA of 5.27 but he has a much lower FIP of 3.65. He has a strike rate of 7.28 K/9 and a walk rate of only 1.68 BB/9. He's given up 10 home runs in 80.1 innings of work and has a strand rate of only 61.4%. His last start came June 25th against the Los Angeles Angels and he allowed 7R/ER in 4.1 innings of work on 10 hits whiles striking out 2 and walking 2.
He has difficulty pitching out of the set. With the bases empty he has held the opposition to an OPS of .594 with a slash line of .231/.252/.341 but with men on base the OPS jumps to .936 with a slash line of .345/.400/.536. With runners in scoring position it's even worse as the opposition has a OPS of 1.115 with a slash line of .397/.453/.662.