Jeff Niemann (12-5, 3.87) vs. Justin Verlander (14-7, 3.38), 1:05 p.m. EST
The home team didn't look sharp yesterday at Comerica Park, making a handful of costly errors in the field and failing to mount much resistance against David Price. Will the Tigers bring the slick gloves and big bats to the ballpark today?
Jeff Niemann was shelled for five runs and five hits in the second inning of his last start for the Rays. Yet he shook that off to pitch another four innings, largely because his lineup hung eight runs on Roy Halladay. At 6'9", Niemann presents an imposing figure for opposing batters, and he's pitched well enough to be in the AL Rookie of the Year discussion. He faced the Tigers once last year, taking a loss in relief while giving up one run in three innings. On the road this season, Niemann has a 7-3 record and 4.62 ERA in 15 starts.
Last Monday in Anaheim, Justin Verlander was dominant for the first five innings he pitched against the Angels. But after a seven-run sixth inning, in which the Tigers built up a 10-0 lead, Verlander seemed to lose focus after sitting in the dugout for a prolonged period. Fortunately, the lead was so big that he could afford a bad inning, but it made what should've been an easy night rather tense at the end. Verlander has a 2-0 record and 4.50 ERA versus the Rays in four career starts.
Aubrey Huff and Clete Thomas are back in the lineup against the right-handed Niemann. Ramon Santiago gets the start at shortstop, and Gerald Laird will catch Verlander, as usual.