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Game 80 Preview: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays

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The Tigers get a second crack at Drew Smyly, who they beat at Comerica Park in May.

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Detroit Tigers (41-38) at Tampa Bay Rays (33-45)

Time/Place: 7:10 p.m., Tropicana Field
SB Nation blog: DRaysBay
Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TVTigers Radio Network
Pitching Matchup: RHP Michael Fulmer (7-2, 2.40 ERA) vs. LHP Drew Smyly (2-8, 5.32 ERA)

Pitcher IP K% BB% FIP fWAR
Fulmer 63.2 22.8 9.1 3.82 1.0
Smyly 89.2 26.7 5.3 4.43 1.1

Things have not gone well for Drew Smyly lately. When he pitched against the Tigers on May 21 at Comerica Park, he was 2-4 with a solid 3.44 ERA. The Tigers were able to scratch out three runs in 6 1/3 innings and win a 5-4 nailbiter, but that only bumped Smyly's ERA up to 3.54 through 56 innings. Six starts and 33 2/3 innings later, Smyly's ERA is up nearly two full runs to 5.32. Opponents have tagged him for 31 runs on 47 hits in that stretch, a ghastly 8.32 ERA.

A lot of it has to do with home run luck. Smyly has given up 10 home runs in this six-start stretch -- it's 12 in seven starts if you include the game against the Tigers -- but is still striking out more than six batters for every walk allowed. His 3.82 xFIP isn't far off of his career ERA and FIP totals, and SIERA is an even bigger fan at 3.59. A 21.6 percent line drive rate during this stretch belies the .374 BABIP, and once he stops allowing homers on 22 percent of every fly ball induced (an unsustainable rate, for sure), he should be fine.

Tigers hitter to fear: Ian Kinsler (.385/.429/.615 in 14 plate appearances)
Tigers hitter to fail: Miguel Cabrera (.000/.167/.000 in 6 plate appearances)

Outlook

The Rays were the team that kicked off this whole "Michael Fulmer is a pitching demigod" phenomenon, and their free-swinging ways haven't changed since their last meeting. Fulmer's high-octane arsenal will still play well, and his homer-happy tendencies should play well in the cavernous Tropicana Field.

However, the Rays will be the first major league team to face Fulmer for the second time. Adjustments are the name of the game at this level, and Fulmer will need to be one step ahead of a lineup that might just amp up the aggressiveness now that they have seen him before. We saw the Royals tattoo Matt Boyd when they saw him for a second time last season, and the same has occurred for countless other young starters. If he gets through the first few innings unscathed, the Tigers should be in business.

Prediction

The rest pays off and Fulmer bolsters his All-Star résumé.

★★★

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