Game 4 Preview: Rays at Tigers

March 11, 2012; Clearwater, FL, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Rick Porcello (48) throws a pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies at Bright House Networks Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE

Tampa Bay Rays (3-0) at Detroit Tigers (3-0)

Time/Place: 1 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation Blog: DRaysBay

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching matchup: Matt Moore (1-0, 2.89 ERA in 2011) vs. Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75 ERA)

One of the early frontrunners for AL Rookie of the Year, Moore is a promising young lefthander who loves to work quickly. He was 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA this spring (in just 10 recorded innings) and had another start against the Rays lineup in an exhibition game last Wednesday. You might remember that Moore dominated the Texas Rangers in Game 1 of the ALDS last year, giving up just 2 hits in 7 innings. In his 19 1/3 career Major League innings (playoffs included), Moore has 23 strikeouts and 6 walks.

Moore has all the tools to be a star – a power fastball that hovers around 95 mph, a decent changeup, and a breaking ball with some nice bite to it. He has relied largely on his fastball in his first couple Major League starts, and I don't see why he will change that just yet. Moore has shown what can happen when he puts it all together, and the results are impressive. Let’s hope he waits until start #2 to do so.

Like Max Scherzer, Porcello's breakout potential has been debated ad nauseam throughout the offseason. He's shown flashes of brilliance and moments of hair-pulling frustration, sometimes even in the same inning. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Porcello has been a notoriously slow starter in his first three big league seasons. He has an ERA of 6.04 in 14 career April starts, with opponents hitting .306 off of him. Porcello needs to utilize today's cooler weather to his advantage and run his sinker in on the hands of Tampa's hitters. If he doesn't break multiple bats today, he probably isn't getting the job done.

Battle of the Undefeateds!

The Rays' starting rotation has already gotten some press from the national media this year, but Tampa's offense carried them to a sweep of the New York Yankees last weekend. The Rays scored 18 runs in the three game series on the backs of Carlos Pena (2 home runs, 7 RBI) and Evan Longoria (.600 average, 11 total bases). Leadoff hitter Desmond Jennings -- playing center field while B.J. Upton recovers from a back injury -- has gotten off to a slow start, but guys like Matt Joyce and noted Tiger-killer Luke Scott have picked up the slack. If the Rays can continue to put runs on the board, this team will be very hard to beat this season.

Outlook

This is Tampa's first foray outside the comforts of their dome, and Mother Nature isn't looking to be too forgiving (though, being Michigan, this could change in an instant). A power arm like Matt Moore can thrive in this type of environment, but he might struggle to find his breaking pitches early on. The Rays offense has been a pleasant surprise thus far, but some of the key bats in the Rays' lineup have historically underperformed at Comerica Park. Longoria, in particular, has an OPS of just .718 in 59 career plate appearances in Detroit. Scott, who absolutely destroys the Tigers at a .358/.488/.896(!) clip, will likely miss the series with hamstring tightness. The Tigers' offense was firing on all cylinders against Boston, but Tampa's pitching staff is several grades above the injury-riddled group that the Red Sox brought to town.

Prediction

The drop in temperature cools off both teams' bats. Whoever can manufacture a late run takes this in a nailbiter.

Bonus Trivia: Can you name the former Tigers on the Rays roster? (Hint: there are five of them)

Gameday Reading:

Rays Season Preview 2012: Matt Moore - DRaysBay
A more detailed look at Moore for the 2012 season. If you're interested in the rest of the Rays roster, here's the full lineup of previews.

Maddon keeps things moving in his lineup - TBO.com
If you're irked by how much Jim Leyland "tinkers" with his lineup, you would hate Joe Maddon as the Tigers' manager.

This Week In Sun Sports: Opening Weekend Edition - DRaysBay
Someone needs to start writing these for Fox Sports Detroit broadcasts.

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