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Game 125 Preview: Tigers at Rays

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David Price returns to Tampa for the first time today as the Tigers look to sweep the Rays in a three game series.

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Tigers (68-56) at Tampa Bay Rays (61-65)

Time/Place: 1:10 p.m., Tropicana Field

SB Nation blog: DRaysBay

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TV (Free Game of the Day), Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: LHP David Price (12-8, 3.12 ERA) vs. RHP Alex Cobb (8-6, 3.19 ERA)

Pitcher GS IP K/9 BB/9 HR/9 WHIP FIP SIERA fWAR
Price 26 193.1 9.87 1.35 1.07 1.04 3.02 2.69 4.2
Cobb 19 115.2 8.56 2.57 0.70 1.18 3.31 3.13 1.8

Alex Cobb was having an up-and-down season when he faced the Tigers back in July. Prior to that outing, he had allowed 10 runs (nine earned) in his last ten innings. He gave up three more in five innings against the Tigers, a 6-3 Rays victory. Since then, Cobb has been dynamite. In his last seven starts, he has given up eight runs in 46 1/3 innings while striking out 49. He struck out double digit hitters in back-to-back starts at the end of July, carving up a pair of NL Central teams to push his win-loss record back above .500.

Cobb's recent run has done wonders for both his ERA and his peripheral numbers. Prior to facing the Tigers in July, Cobb had a 3.85 FIP and a SIERA of 3.50. He was also worth just 0.6 WAR through 11 starts. Now, Cobb's season-long numbers -- except for the ERA -- mirror those that he posted in 2013. A slight jump in BABIP and decline in strand rate have resulted in a slight elevation in his ERA, but he was due to regress somewhat anyway. Strangely, his platoon splits have nearly reversed themselves from last season. He showed traditional splits last year, but has held lefties to a much lower OPS in 2014.

David Price endeared himself to Tigers fans in a big way in his last start, his first as a Tiger at Comerica Park. He out-dueled Felix Hernandez, allowing just one run on three hits in 8 1/3 innings. The Tigers won the game 4-1, their second victory in three Price starts thus far. This was Price's first victory as a Tiger. It will be interesting to see how he attacks his former club, but the familiar surroundings should help. In 84 career starts at Tropicana Field, Price has a 2.89 ERA and a 3.70 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Tigers hitter to fear: Alex Avila (.444/.455/.556 in 11 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Victor Martinez (.250/.333/.250 in 9 plate appearances)

As you might expect, Price hasn't faced too many of his former teammates in game action. In fact, only two Rays hitters -- Yunel Escobar and Jose Molina -- have ever faced the lefty. They are a combined 10 for 38 with a home run, two RBI and two walks (all from Escobar).

On the other side, Cobb has allowed plenty of baserunners in his career against the Tigers. They have 26 hits and nine walks in just 23 2/3 innings against the 26 year old righty. Alex Avila and Torii Hunter are leading the charge with batting averages of .400 or better. Ian Kinsler has a pair of doubles and Don Kelly is 3 for 8. Miguel Cabrera only has two hits in eight at-bats, but has walked five times.

Outlook

Today's game is sure to be an emotional one for Price, who expressed plenty of gratitude to the Rays and their fans after he was traded to Detroit. Will Price let those emotions get to him on the mound? It's easy to say that a pitcher of his caliber should keep a lid on things, but sometimes that is not the case. Price will need to be on his game, as Cobb has held the Tigers in check in four career starts.

Prediction

Price struggles early but buckles down to lead the Tigers to a series sweep.

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