The Detroit Tigers nearly had a chance to win their first series since mid-June on Sunday at home against the Texas Rangers. Unfortunately, the offense was held scoreless for the 11th time this season. Overall, Detroit has now lost 15 of their last 19 games — their last series win coming Father’s Day weekend — and hitting just .232 as a club.
Tampa has continued to be a very pesky bunch for teams to play. They are tied with Seattle for the most games (37) decided by one run in all of baseball and all but 19 of their 89 games played have been within four runs or fewer. But where the Rays have created the most buzz was with their “opener” pitching strategy they implemented back in mid-May, having a reliever start games. Turns out, it was the right move. Since May 18, no pitching staff has allowed fewer runs (2.69 ERA) than the Rays.
The Tigers and Rays have traded series wins and losses in Tampa since 2008, with the Rays sweeping a three-game set at Tropicana last season. The problem, however, is this year’s Tigers have the fourth-worst road winning percentage in the sport, while Tampa is 23-17 at home in 2018.
Game 1 | Francisco Liriano (Tigers) vs. Chris Archer (Rays)
Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.03 ERA) managed to give the Tigers six innings in his last start on the road. He held a potent Chicago Cubs lineup to just three runs despite issuing a season-high five free passes and giving up a pair of gopher balls. Liriano has been much better on the road (3.23 ERA in eight road starts) this season but he is going to face a Rays club that has given him fits over the years (5.40 ERA in 15 career starts vs. TB).
On the other side, Chris Archer (3-4, 4.24 ERA) will be activated from the 10-day disabled list after suffering a strained abdomen. Archer last pitched on June 2 against Seattle, going five innings of two-run ball against the Mariners. While he has not been quite as sharp as he has in recent years, he was exceptional in his rehab outing last week and has had some solid success against the Tigers in his career (3.48 ERA in nine starts vs. DET).
Game 2 | Matthew Boyd (Tigers) vs. TBD (Rays)
There is no beating around the bush, Matthew Boyd (4-7, 4.58 ERA) endured his worst start of 2018 his last time out against the Rangers, giving up a season-high seven runs (six earned) over just four innings. It was perhaps the lowest point of a rough stretch for Boyd, in which his ERA is well over 10.00 in his last four games, three of which he failed to go beyond four innings. He does have minimal success against the Rays in his career (3.27 ERA in two starts vs. TB), including a six-inning, one-run performance back on May 1.
The Rays have yet to formally announce who will start games for both Tuesday and Wednesday in this series, which is a good sign that it will be a reliever to “open” the game (Detroit avoids both Blake Snell and Nathan Eovaldi in this series).
Regardless of who does start, keep an eye on Ryan Yarbrough (7-4, 3.75 ERA) and Matt Andriese (1-3, 3.71 ERA). They have been Tampa’s primary innings eaters in these types of games and have each started a handful this season. One fantasy outlet has projected the latter Andriese to maybe start on Tuesday, he last pitched on July 4, pitching the first two innings of a “bullpen game” for the Rays.
Game 3 | Jordan Zimmermann (Tigers) vs. TBD (Rays)
No pitcher has been more dominant as of late than Jordan Zimmermann (4-0, 3.51 ERA), who has been dealing like the ace Detroit paid him to be back in November of 2015. Zimmermann twirled another gem in his last start against Texas, going eight innings and striking out 11 batters, both season-highs. The only run charged was a leadoff homer on the second pitch of the game.
Zimmermann now has a 1.22 ERA over his last six starts, a stretch that sparked possible trade conversation with the 32-year-old. He, too, has had some success against the Rays in his career (3.68 ERA in six starts vs. TB) but not as much as a visitor (5.29 ERA in three starts at Tropicana Field).
Whoever between Yarbrough and Andriese makes an appearance on Tuesday for the Rays, the Tigers figure to see the other on Wednesday log some innings. As far as starting… pardon me, “opening” the game is concerned, the primary options Tampa has turned to include Sergio Romo, Ryan Stanek, and, to a lesser degree, Andrew Kittredge. Romo and Stanek, in particular, have combined to “open” 15 games for the Rays this season.
HITTERS TO WATCH
It can be tricky pinpointing a hitter to watch for the Tigers, not named Nicholas Castellanos or Niko Goodrum, as of late with the team’s recent hitting woes. So, aside from that duo, how about we look at Victor Reyes? The Rule 5 Draft selection, slowly but surely, has been receiving a bit more playing time as the season has progressed and shown us little pockets of what he can do at the dish. Reyes in seven games this month is 5 for 13 with a double and an RBI.
Rays catcher Wilson Ramos is enjoying a fine season in Tampa. So much so, he was named the starting catcher for the American League in next week’s All-Star exhibition in the nation’s capital. Ramos is two years removed from his first All-Star season (2016) when he was a member of the Washington Nationals, the same year he also suffered a torn ACL that caused him to miss much of last season as well. Fully healthy again, the Tampa backstop is posting a real solid .289/.340/.462 slash line.
- Game 1 | Mon, July 9 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
- Game 2 | Tue, July 10 @ 7:10 p.m. ET
- Game 3 | Wed, July 11 @ 12:10 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.
*Can be seen on MLB Network (out-of-market only)