Detroit Tigers (36-39) at Tampa Bay Rays (40-35)
Time/Place: 7:00 p.m., Tropicana Field
SB Nation Blog: DRaysBay
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: Max Scherzer (6-5, 5.12 ERA) vs. James Shields (7-4, 3.99 ERA)
Shields shut the Tigers down to hand them their first loss of the season back in April. That game seems like it was five years ago. Regardless of the other no names that have stymied the Tigers this year, Shields is very good. He has 93 strikeouts in 97 innings, but has regressed back to career norms in terms of his WHIP due to an elevated walk rate. Judging by the spike in his strikeout rate, it seems like he's pitching to contact less than he did last season when he had 11 complete games in 33 starts. It's tough to argue with the results, but I'd rather face this Shields than the 2011 version.
I can't say anything critical about Scherzer's last start. Well, anything regarding him. The offense sucked, and if you were thinking of going back to watch it again, don't. Scherzer has allowed 3 earned runs in each of his last four road starts, three of which were quality starts. His home splits are another story for another time (a.k.a. when he starts at Comerica on Monday). The Rays only have one active player hitting over .270 in Jeff Keppinger, but I'm still not confident enough to boast that Scherzer will mow through this MacGuyver'd lineup.
Since these two teams last played? Quite a bit, actually. The Rays have a quartet of contributors on the disabled list in Evan Longoria, Jeremy Hellickson, and Matt Joyce. They signed Hideki Matsui on April 30th and he made his debut on May 29th. He currently owns a .164/.228/.260 slash line (yet Tokarz still wants him over Brennan Boesch). Fernando Rodney is now the best closer in baseball with 21 saves and a 1.07 ERA. And Luke Scott is back from the DL in time to hit .750 against us this series. As a team, the Rays are 5 games over .500... and fourth in their division.
The Rays are missing their best player, leading home run hitter, and the defending Rookie of the Year. On paper, the Tigers should at least split this series. As we've seen all season long, there's a reason they play the games. Joe Maddon is the best manager in the American League and I think we will see why during this series (if, you know, you haven't been paying attention for the last five seasons). I would consider a series split to be a huge victory for the Tigers heading into a homestand before the All-Star Break.
"Big Game James" lives up to the billing once again in a pitcher's duel.
Scott set to return, Farnsworth close - Tampa Bay Times, Marc Topkin
Luke Scott returns just in time for a series against the Tigers. Someone up there hates us.
Could Cano's Contract Even Be More Valuable Than Longoria's? - DRaysBay
While DRB has a certain... stigma at times when it comes to using advanced statistics, this is an excellent post. Bashing ESPN talking heads is also a plus.
The Dude Abides: The Good And The Bad Of J.P. Howell - DRaysBay, Steve Slowinski
Howell is no longer the force that he was during the Rays' playoff run in 2008.