On the heels of a series split against the Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays look to avenge their 7-6 loss on Wednesday, when they start a four-game series against the sub .500 Tigers, in Detroit. Le Tigre has dropped two straight, and four of their last five, while the Rays have won six of their last 10.
The two faced one another earlier this season, from April 19-21, in a series that was punctuated by defensive lapses in the outfield by Detroit. The Rays outscored the Tigers 21-9 in the three-game sweep at the Trop. In spite of the peripherals, their Tigers — especially Miguel Cabrera — are experiencing a power outage of sorts. Cabrera’s last homer came on May 20, and he’s gone 22 full games (95 plate appearances) without a long ball. Be that as it may, he’s hit .308 (24-78) over that span.
The Rays will look to do two things over the next four days: keep Detroit in the ball-park, and score first. The Tigers are 29-18 when they hit a homer, and 1-16 when they don’t. Furthermore, Le Tigre is 0-25 when they trail after the sixth inning, 1-25 when they trail after the seventh, and 0-28 when they trail after the eighth.
Kevin Cash will lean on Alex Cobb (5-5, 4.29 ERA, 4.34 FIP), Erasmo Ramirez (3-1, 4.20 ERA, 3.73 FIP), Chris Archer (4-4, 3.80 ERA, 2.86 FIP), and Jacob Faria (2-0, 1.42 ERA, 1.78 FIP) this weekend. Brad Ausmus will counter with Justin Verlander (4-4, 4.68 ERA, 4.58 FIP), Daniel Norris (3-4, 4.41 ERA, 4.17 FIP), Michael Fulmer (6-4, 3.40 ERA, 3.03 FIP), and Buck Farmer (2-0, 3.52 ERA, 2.80 FIP).
Cobb relied heavily on a strong changeup to great effect in his last start, limiting the Athletics to one run and four hits over six innings. He got the win and improved to 5-5. Cobb’s overall 4.29 ERA would look much better if not for a miserable 5 IP/9 R/14 H start against the Mariners on June 3. He is 2-1 with a 2.35 ERA against the Tigers.
Verlander, gave up three runs over five innings in his last turn. It was the right-handers first start since leaving his June 4 outing with groin tightness. Verlander has had an up and down season, due in part to his seeming inability to coax swings and misses. From last season to this, opponents’ chase rates have dropped from 16.6% to 13.7%, while their SwStr% (within the zone) have declined from 17.7% to 14 %. Be that as it may, Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.57 ERA in three career starts against Tampa Bay. Key Matchups: Evan Longoria (8-30, 2B, 3B, HR, 5 RBI, BB), Michael Martinez (2-8, BB), Derek Norris (3-7, RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (2-6)
Ramirez allowed 10 hits and a walk over 5-1/3 innings, yet held Oakland to three runs in his last start. He beat the Tigers in the final game of the above mentioned three-game sweep, allowing just two hits and one run.
Norris hasn’t completed the fifth inning in three of his 12 starts, including his last start against Tampa Bay on April 20. He has allowed an equal number hits to the number of strikeouts he’s collected over his previous four starts, with a 3.63 ERA over that span. It appears that he has started to fix things, as his self inflicted wounds (and/or the wounds inflicted by others) don’t appear to be effecting him as much. Take a recent start against the BoSox for example, when he worked around a third inning misplay in centerfield which allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to move into scoring position with one out. He limited the damage and work out of the jam. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (1-2), Evan Longoria (4-7, 2B, RBI, BB), Michael Martinez (1-1, BB), Steven Souza Jr. (3-8, 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI, BB), Jesus Sucre (1-2)
Archer allowed four earned runs over six innings of a no-decision in his last start against Oakland. He fanned eight. The irony? His last start against the Tigers had a similar outcome: 5 IP/4 R/9 K. The luck dragons have nipped at Archer’s heels over his last few starts — a .370 BABIP speaks to that — so it’s reasonable to assume he’s due a bounce back.
Fulmer has been shelved since June 8 after an MRI revealed inflammation in the bursa of his right shoulder. It’s no coincidence that he allowed five runs in back-to-back starts for the first time in his career. Fulmer took the loss in his last start against the Rays after he allowed three earned runs on six hits and two walks over six innings. Pitching Matchups: Tim Beckham (1-2, HR, 2 RBI), Derek Norris (2-3, RBI)
Faria was impressive yet again in his last start. His stuff, especially his changeup, was electric, and he fooled Toronto’s hitters left and right. He was poised and efficient, allowing just three hits on 70 pitches over five innings — calmly taking a shutout into the seventh against the power-laden Blue Jays.
Farmer had a 13-inning scoreless streak snapped in his last start, when he allowed six runs in 2-1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks. This season, the 26 year-old right-hander has relied upon a whiffy 92 MPH four-seam fastball and 85 MPH changeup, while also mixing in a 91 MPH sinker with arm-side run, a 79 MPH 12-6 slider, and a swing and miss 81 MPH cutter. Farmer faced the Rays once in relief in 2015, allowing a home run in one-third of an inning.