Series Preview – Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Bay Rays
After losing two out of three to the Rangers, the Tigers head to St. Petersburg for a four-game weekend series with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Tigers didn’t necessarily play poorly in their losses in Arlington (save for maybe the 13-9 affair in last night’s game), but Texas is in a lot of ways the best team in baseball right now. Anyone could struggle against them, and even so there were real signs of life in the bats. With any luck, it’ll continue against Tampa. The Rays are quickly falling further down the ladder in the A.L. East, as the Yankees have picked up their game considerably, and now sit with a very comfortable lead at the top of the division. However injuries are plaguing the Yanks’ starting rotation, so this could be Tampa’s chance to climb back into things.
Thursday – 6/28/12
Max Scherzer vs. James Shields
There is no discounting how good James Shields is. He is easily in the “elite” pitcher category. He doesn’t always get the wins that he should, but his numbers are very good, and if he had a more power-packed lineup around him, they could be even better. He can duel the best and win. In 51 innings against Detroit, he’s 5-0 with a 3.51 ERA. Those are the kind of numbers you want, especially when you’re a team looking to take immediate advantage of the injuries in your division. He needs to be careful, though, because there are plenty of Tigers up and down the lineup that have figured him out a lot in the past. The right combination at the right time could lead Shields to a number of runs (especially given the sheer volume of hits the Tigers put up the last three days in Arlington).
In the other corner is Max Scherzer. Scherzer pitched pretty well in his last start, with the 3-run home run being the only real blemish. It cannot be stressed enough that Max had left the team for one day to go home and mourn the passing of his younger brother before making that last start. To come back from such a fresh tragedy and still do your job as effectively as he did is something that not many of us would be able to accomplish. He’s never had success against Tampa, though, with an 0-2 record and 3.06 ERA. So he’s not doing bad, just not getting the runs he needs to win. He’ll need to have his A-Game tonight, though, if he wants to beat Shields. The funny thing is that most the current roster has had no success against Max. Desmond Jennings and Jeff Keppinger are the only ones with hits. So it’ll be interesting to see how this one turns out.
Friday – 6/29/12
Justin Verlander vs. David Price
David Price is having a stellar year at 10-4 with a 2.95 ERA. There’s no denying that he’s one of those pitchers that seem to be dominating in 2012. However he’s given up a lot of earned runs in his last few starts (11 total in his last three), so he hasn’t been as crisp lately. But all three of those starts came against the National League. Against the American League this season he is raking. He’s already getting dangerously close to putting up numbers like he did in 2010 (19-6, 2.72 ERA). He’s going to be a near-impossible force to master in this game, and the fact that the biggest bat (Miguel Cabrera) is only hitting .091 career against him helps tremendously. That’s a force that could be a non-issue.
Justin Verlander is a force all his own, though. What David Price is for the Rays, Verlander is for the Tigers. The only difference is that there are Tampa Bay hitters that own Verlander (including B.J. Upton and Sean Rodriguez). Of course, that’s pretty much all the offense the Rays ever seem to get, because Verlander is 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA in his career against Tampa. So he does a really good job of shutting them down when he needs to. The problem in this game is that Price has been too good for Verlander to be giving up three earned runs. That might be all that the Rays need in order to take the win.
Saturday – 6/30/12
Rick Porcello vs. TBA
The Rays have yet to announce who will be pitching in Game 3 and 4 of this series, so, unfortunately, a series pick won’t be possible. After all, the outcome of a game can hinge entirely on who is chosen to pitch. For the Tigers, Game 3 will be Rick Porcello’s chance. Rick got his revenge on the Rangers on Monday, receiving eight runs of support from his offense (that knocked Grimm out of the game after only one inning), just as the Rangers did to him in the first meeting between the two. Now Porcello’s looking to continue winning, and hopefully get to a point before the all-star break where he’ll be able to reach 15-17 wins before the season is over. He’s had moderate success against the Rays (1-1, 3.15 ERA), and no one currently on the team has hit him all that well. The only problem is that Rick has been very inconsistent this year. While he’s won two of his last three starts, his last win before that was May 6th. He’ll need to pitch like the Porcello that’s shown up recently if he wants to help his team win.
Sunday – 7/1/12
Drew Smyly vs. TBA
Smyly was not great in his last outing against the Rangers. His first start back from the D.L. and he gave up six earned runs. He faced the Rays earlier this season, and did a nice job limiting their runs. However, that was his first start of the season, and no one knew what to expect of him. The Rays will have a scouting report now, and they’ll be ready to do some damage. Smyly just needs to figure out how to capture some of that magic he showed early in the season, and try to limit the Tampa offense enough for the Tigers to stay alive.
Like I said, you can’t in good conscience do picks for the series when you’re missing ¼ of the data necessary to make an informed decision. The probable pitchers could most likely be extrapolated from the recent data, but there’s a reason why Tampa hasn’t announced anyone as even “probable” yet. Whatever that reason is, I think this series will ultimately be very close, leaving both teams no better or worse than when they started. Hopefully that’s not the case, though, because the Tigers could use three or four wins this weekend.