ON DECK: Tigers return for brief home series with red hot Rays

The Detroit Tigers come back home after a six-game road trip in Pittsburgh and Baltimore, finishing that swing with a 2-4 record overall. It was a bit of a roller coaster offensively for the team. The roadie began with a 13-run outburst in the front end of a doubleheader, but valleyed with a streak of 22 frames without a run in the midst of a three-game losing streak.

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The Tigers (11-15) now return to the friendly confines of Comerica Park for one quick home series before going back on the road. And it won’t be an easy return trip for the Kitties, they welcome in the sport’s hottest team (or one of them) in the Tampa Bay Rays (12-14).

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Prior to their 4-3 loss to the Red Sox on Sunday, the Rays were winners of eight straight and scoring over seven runs per contest during that stretch. It’s been a tale of two halves in April for Tampa, they started off the season dropping eight of their first nine games. They were one team who did some major housekeeping in the offseason, highlighted by the trading of franchise cornerstone third baseman Evan Longoria.

The all-time series between the Tigers and Rays has been a good one over time. Since 2000, Detroit holds a 65-58 advantage over Tampa Bay, with neither club winning more than six games consecutively at any point during that time.

PITCHING MATCHUPS

Game 1 | Jake Faria (Rays) vs. Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers)

Jake Faria (1-1, 6.33 ERA) put together a modest rookie campaign last season in limited appearances, posting a 3.43 ERA in 16 games (14 starts) for Tampa. By and large, he’s been pretty effective again for the Rays so far. Throw out his April 7 start against Boston when he allowed eight earned over 1.2 innings, and his ERA sits under 3.50. Faria his last time out allowed four over 4.1 against the Orioles.

Is the clock ticking for Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 7.91 ERA) as a starter with the Tigers? It is not crazy to suggest that, and his borderline treasonous performances would help make that claim. Zimmermann only lasted three innings in his last outing against Pittsburgh and was charged with six runs (three earned). It was the fourth straight start in which he failed to get through six frames (hasn’t done so since Opening Day).

Game 2 | Chris Archer (Rays) vs. Matthew Boyd (Tigers)

Rays ace Chris Archer (2-1, 6.61 ERA) has gotten off to a real rocky start in 2018, certainly not the start he nor the club wants to see if they ever entertain the thought of trading him sometime this season. Archer has allowed four or more runs in four of his six starts so far this season, including his last time out against Baltimore when he yielded a season-high 11 hits to the O’s. Over his last four starts (2016-17) against Detroit, his ERA is approaching 6.00.

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Matthew Boyd (0-2, 2.74 ERA) will look to bounce back from his first hiccup of the season. Against the Pirates his last time out, Boyd threw 94 pitches and only last 3.2 innings, giving up an (early) season-high in hits (7) and runs (4) to the Buccos. This will be just his second career start against the Rays, the first coming in 2015 (5 IP, 3 ER) after Detroit acquired him in the David Price deal with Toronto.

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Game 3 | Blake Snell (Rays) vs. Michael Fulmer (Tigers)

This series finale should be a really good one with each team’s current top starters, respectively, taking the bump. Tampa’s Blake Snell (4-1, 2.52 ERA) has continued to show why he is the future ace for the Rays. Since August 10 of last season, Snell in 16 starts has registered a 2.73 ERA. The former 2011 first-rounder will make his second career start against Detroit, the first coming during his rookie season in 2016 when the Tigers were still…. well, contending-ish.

The other side of this tape features Michael Fulmer (1-2, 2.76 ERA), who was sensational in yet another 1-0 loss to Pittsburgh his last time out, tossing six scoreless and striking out a season-high nine batters. Fulmer last season against Tampa allowed six runs over 12.1 IP (4.26 ERA) with just eight strikeouts, compared to his rookie season where he yielded just one run over 14 IP (0.64 ERA) and punched out 21 Rays.

HITTERS TO WATCH

Once upon a time, Rays outfielder Denard Span was patrolling center field for the Minnesota Twins and wreaking havoc on the Tigers. Span in 72 career games against Detroit is hitting at a .341 clip, his highest mark against any team in his career (min. 30 games). While he is no spring chicken anymore and not as an elite defender as he once was, Span could be the key to the Rays’ success in this series offensively.

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This time a week ago, we highlighted the hot bat of catcher James McCann. Now, it is shortstop José Iglesias swinging a good stick lately for the Tigers. Another hit for Iglesias on Sunday now gives him a knock in six straight contests. Going back to April 13 (13 games), he’s hitting a cool .333 (17 for 51) after starting the season in a 2 for 35 skid.

SERIES INFO

  • Game 1 | Mon, April 30 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 2 | Tues, May 1 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
  • Game 3 | Wed, May 2 @ 1:10 p.m. ET

All games can be seen on Fox Sports Detroit unless otherwise noted. Be sure to check your local listings for regional radio broadcasts.

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