Detroit Tigers (43-35) at Tampa Bay Rays (41-39)
Time/Place: 7:15 p.m., Tropicana Field
SB Nation blog: DRaysBay
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.90 ERA) vs. RHP Chris Archer (2-3, 4.21 ERA)
Archer will be making just the tenth start of his career, and sixth of the season. This will be his first action against the Tigers. The 24 year old former fifth round draft selection of the Indians in 2006 was traded to the Cubs in the deal for Mark DeRosa, and from there to the Rays in the trade that sent Matt Garza to the Chicago Cubs.
He has managed two quality starts this season, including his last start in Yankee stadium, where he held the Yankees to one run on six hits in six innings of work in a 3- 1 Rays victory. He mixes his pitches well, with an even distribution of four seam fastballs, two seamers and sliders, with a change up in the mix. The two and four seamers sit around 95 mph, touching 97, while the two off speed pitches sit around 85 mph. It's the kind of repertoire that could easily frustrate an impatient hitter.
Justin Verlander has not been the dominating ACE that he has been for the Tigers the past couple of seasons, but he is still among the leagues best. He has allowed at least three earned runs in eight of his last nine starts, but has won four of his last five decisions. While his ERA and WHIP are up this year, so are his strikeouts and walk rates. The biggest difference this season is that Verlander is not going as deep into games, his longest start lasting 7.1 innings. With the Tiger bullpen as it has been, this is not a good year to rely on them more than in the past
Verlander's last start against the Rays was exactly one year ago, on June 20, 2012. Desmond Jennings homered twice, Luke Scott homered once, former Ray Delmon Young homered for Detroit, and the Rays prevailed, 4- 2.
The Rays find themselves in fourth place, seven games behind first place Boston in the AL East, their record would put them just behind the Tigers, half a game behind Cleveland in the Central Detroit leads Cleveland by two games. The Tigers lineup scores more runs per game, but the Rays are holding their own with above average run production. They have been led by third baseman Evan Longoria, who left Friday's game after aggravating a foot injury. Neither club features a lot of speed on the bases, but Joe Maddon certainly has his runners deploying a more aggressive approach than the station to station Tiger attack.
The key to this game, as with most Tiger games, will be the Tigers' feast or famine offense. Verlander will be anywhere from dominating to just good. Former Tiger Fernando Rodney is having a tough season as the Rays' closer, and former Ray Joaquin Benoit has been having a fine season, now promoted to closer in the Tiger bullpen. The Rays' bullpen gets a slight advantage overall, at least partly because it is better managed.
Verlander gets back on track and the Tigers score enough runs off Archer to carry the day.