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Series Preview: Rays head to Motown

TB takes on the Tigers for a four game series.

MLB: Baltimore Orioles at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Rays leave Toronto with a split series. The Rays are 6-3 in their last nine games. The Detroit Tigers enter the series having lost five of their last six games.

Our colleagues at Bless You Boys reached out to the Rays Baseball twitter for a pre-season Q and A, which you can read here.

The Matchups:

Thursday 7:10 PM: Alex Cobb vs Justin Verlander

Friday 7:10 PM: Erasmo Ramirez vs Daniel Norris

Saturday 4:10 PM: Chris Archer vs Michael Fulmer

Sunday 1:10 PM: Jacob Faria vs Buck Farmer

Verlander has had a rough beginning to the season

Sorry Kate Upton, but Justin Verlander didn’t earn the Cy Young last year and it doesn’t look like he will this year. After a bounce back season in 2016, Verlander has struggled and his peripherals have tanked. His ERA is up to 4.68 and FIP is in line at 4.58. His strikeouts are down over 7% to 20.1% and his walks are up almost 5% to 11.1%. In his last start he allowed three runs in five innings against the Red Sox, and that is typical of the sorts of results he is seeing this year.

Daniel Norris has a 4.41 ERA and 4.17 FIP. He has struck out 20.5% of batters and walked 10.1%. He has avoided home runs, with a 9.3% HR/FB rate this year. The left-hander has been vulnerable to left handed bats with a .232/.323/.458 and .356 wOBA. Norris allowed two runs in five inning to the Red Sox in his last outing. His only outing against the Rays was in April 2015. The Rays should have their opportunities if they force him to throw in zone and work their walks.

Michael Fulmer has a 3.40 ERA and 3.04 FIP. The 2016 American League Rookie of the Year winner is having another very effective season. His strikeouts are down to 18.3% and his walks are down to 4.9%. The biggest difference this year has been his ability to avoid home runs. His HR/FB rate is at 5.3% while only allowing a 30.9% fly ball rate. In his last start he went 4.1 innings and allowed five runs to the Angels. Last year he was outstanding in two starts against the Rays, who managed one run total in a pair of seven run outings with ten and eleven strikeout performances.

This will be the fourth start of the season for righty Buck Farmer. He has a 3.52 ERA and 2.80 FIP through 15.1 innings. For his career, he hasn’t had much success in 35 appearances (11 starts) posting a 6.30 ERA and 5.50 FIP in 94.1 innings. In his last start he allowed six runs in 2.1 innings against the Diamondbacks. He hasn’t made a start against the Rays.

The Tigers bullpen is special

The Tigers bullpen has the fourth highest ERA in the majors at 4.99 and the second highest FIP at 4.90.

Left hander Justin Wilson has picked up a majority of the save opportunities since Francisco Rodriguez lost the job. Wilson has a 2.77 ERA and 3.55 FIP. He has picked up five saves.

Shane Greene has been one of their best arms with a 1.76 ERA and 2.73 FIP.

Francisco Rodriguez has posted a 6.23 ERA and 6.17 FIP.

Last night the Tigers only needed one inning out of their bullpen after getting eight innings out of Jordan Zimmermann. In addition to their off day on Monday the bullpen should be well rested.

J.D. Martinez has been on fire since his return from the DL

The Tigers offense has a .254/.331/.429 line and 102 wRC+. Their team trails the league with -11.0 baserunning runs.

J.D. Martinez has been on fire since getting a late start to the season. He’s hitting .301/.388/.500 and 175 wRC+. He’s hit 11 homers in 121 plate appearances.

Alex Avila has had a hell of a return to Detroit. He’s hitting .311/.342/.607 and has a 176 wRC+ through 148 plate appearances. It’s safe to say his offense has made up for his defensive deficiencies.

Justin Upton has rebounded after a disappointing first season in Detroit. He’s hitting .265/.351/.502 and 126 wRC+. He has 13 homers.

Miguel Cabrera is not having his usual MVP caliber season thus far. He’s hitting .277/.377/.426 and 114 wRC+, respectable for many but out of character for him. Cabrera hasn’t posted a wRC+ lower than 143 since his first season in Detroit. The average and on-base percentage are still very good, but the .149 ISO is a drop of almost .100 from last season. He has hit five homers in 220 plate appearances.

The Rays need to keep picking up series wins

The Rays currently are in possession of the second wild card in the American League with a half game lead over the Angels.

Even with their fair share of stumbles, the Rays are in the middle of the American League playoff race. There are under 100 games remaining for almost every team. The Rays just need to keep winning series.