Tampa Bay Rays (38-49) at Detroit Tigers (47-34)
Time/Place: 7:08 p.m., Comerica Park
SB Nation blog: DRaysBay
Pitching Matchup: LHP Erik Bedard (4-5, 4.21 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (9-3, 3.64 ERA)
Erik Bedard's journeyman career continued with the Tampa Bay Rays this season, his fifth club in the last four seasons. Like his previous stops, his overall numbers are unimpressive. However, this season has been better than his 4.21 ERA indicates. He has a 3.79 FIP and one start -- a four inning, seven run performance against the Toronto Blue Jays -- is the difference between fifth starter numbers and a 3.54 ERA. He has not logged mid-rotation innings, however, averaging just five innings per start. He has more starts of four innings or fewer (five) than quality starts (four) in 2014.
For the second consecutive season, left-handed hitters have teed off on Bedard. While he doesn't face many, lefties hit .309/.391/.441 off him last season and have chipped in an .837 OPS in 84 plate appearances this season. The secret? Lefties are getting on base at a startling clip. Since the start of 2013, Bedard has walked 10% of the left-handed batters he has faced. A BABIP north of .350 doesn't hurt either. Righties still hit for plenty of power against him, though, including 20 of the 25 home runs he has allowed since the start of last season.
The Max Scherzer of 2013 made a triumphant return in his last two June starts, a pair of Tigers victories. Scherzer struck out 21 and walked three in just 13 innings of work, allowing three total runs. He fanned 13 in his last outing, a no-decision against the whiff-happy Houston Astros. Despite some middling overall numbers, Scherzer has put the Tigers in position to win on most nights. The team is 12-5 when he takes the mound this season, and three of those losses were the result of a Tigers offense that scored four total runs.
Hitter to fear: James Loney (.250/.286/.450 in 21 plate appearances)
Hitter to fail: Desmond Jennings (.083/.083/.083 in 12 plate appearances)
Scherzer has dominated the Rays throughout his career, allowing a 2.87 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and .547 OPS in six starts. This has resulted in some ugly numbers from Rays hitters, including a .167 OPS from Desmond Jennings, who has struck out five times in 12 at-bats. Ben Zobrist is just 2-for-15, while superstar third baseman Evan Longoria isn't much better at 2-for-12. James Loney is the only one with an OPS above .650, though four Rays -- Loney, Zobrist, Longoria, and former Tiger Matt Joyce -- have homered off Scherzer in the past. Speaking of Joyce, he has continued to mash right-handed pitching this year, hitting .290/.378/.444 off righties in 254 plate appearances.
Despite their record, the Rays are still a very dangerous team. Their pitching staff just set the major league record for most strikeouts in a month, and their pythagorean record suggests that they're a couple wins better than the current standings appear. However, their anemic offense is still holding them back. They aren't the worst offensive team in the AL -- that dubious honor belongs to the defending champions -- but they rank at or near the bottom in most offensive categories. They don't strike out much and are the most disciplined team in the league, though, so this may be a tough matchup for the Tigers' power arms if they can't find the strike zone.
Scherzer rolls and the Tigers continue their perfect homestand.