As the season winds into September, the continuing question seems to be, “Will the Tigers be able to compete with the big boys?” Nobody has solved the true equation, but this weekend will give Detroit Tigers fans a true sense of things to come, as the Devil Rays (I’ll pay ownership my dollar the second Tuesday of next week) come into town. For the Tigers, Nate Robertson will look to rebound on Saturday, after making solid rehab starts in AAA Toledo. This is the beginning of a stretch for the Rays, where they will play 17 games against contenders for a playoff spot. The Tigers begin this series four games ahead of the Chicago White Sox in the A.L. Central. The Rays are 9.5 games out in the A.L. East, and 3.5 games out of the wildcard spot.
Breaking Down the Series–
Tampa Bay Rays (69-57 9.5 GB 3.5 wc) vs. Detroit Tigers (67-59 1st place A.L. Central)
What is so interesting about this series is how comparable both of these teams are. The Tigers are sporting a team 4.18 ERA, while the Rays have a 4.20 total staff ERA. For the Rays, offense hasn’t been as big of a problem, hitting .267 as a team. The Rays offense has driven in nearly 100 more runs than the Tigers, but they have also struck out 100 times more than the Tigers. Something that suits well late in this series, when Justin Verlander is on the hill. The Rays, much like the Tigers, struggle on the road. So far this season they have posted a 27-36 record on the road, while the Tigers have put together a 40-20 record at home.
Tonight: Matt Garza (7-8 3.74) vs. Rick Porcello (10-8 4.39)-
The Tigers will be pushing up Porcello for the one of the few times this season, after he gave up three shots to the Oakland A’s in his last start. Against this Rays lineup, it will be key for the youngster to hit his spots. Especially with Jim Leyland only asking for five innings from Nate Robertson on Saturday.
Matt Garza has struggled against the Tigers, going 0-3 in his career against them. This year has been a battle of consistency, and despite some struggles, Garza still has the best stuff on this staff. He will be looked on to set the tone for the Rays as they head into a key series this weekend.
Saturday: David Price (6-6 4.93) vs. Nate Robertson (1-0 7.71)-
After missing two of the best young pitchers matching up by a day, Tigers fans will put their hope in an arm that has yet to prove he still belongs in the Major leagues. Robertson will only be asked to go five innings by manager Jim Leyland, when Zach Miner will come in to close out the start. Robertson had his fastball dialed up to 91 miles an hour in Toledo, and did look impressive. He could be the final piece to the puzzle down the stretch, and it starts this weekend against a very tough offense.
On the hill for the Rays is a lefty as well, but this kid is coming into his own. David Price, Tampa’s prized possession heads into Detroit with a 0-4 record on the road and an 8.04 ERA. His last two starts have been impressive, despite high pitch counts and struggles with control. It will be key for the Tigers to jump on Price early if they want to win Saturday’s ballgame. I won’t be surprised if Jimmy Boy Leyland has the top of the lineup swinging really early in counts. If Price’s slider is on, we could see a gem brew for the pitcher in the opposing dugout.
Sunday: TBA vs. Justin Verlander (14-7 3.38)-
If the Tigers are to win this series, Sunday is a must win. The Rays have yet to decide who will be going on the mound, and Detroit’s ace is looking to bounce back after giving up six and confronting his catcher in Anaheim. It will be interesting to see if this scuffle is nothing, or if Alex Avila will be in the lineup Sunday afternoon. Verlander leads the American League in strikeouts, and is only three away from Tim Lincecum in the National League.
Monday: James Shields (8-10 3.81) vs. Jarrod Washburn (9-7 3.23)-
James Shields has had the most success of any starter against Detroit, and recently has found his changeup, making him the most feared starter this series. If there is anything that history tells us, it is that we should expect Shields to at least give the Rays six innings on Monday.
For Jarrod Washburn, Monday is possibly the biggest start of the season for him. After gathering his first win as a Tiger on the road, it will be imperative for Washburn to give the pen some rest, and keep the lagging Tigers offense in the ballgame. What makes Monday even better is the numbers Washburn has put up against the Rays in the past. So far in his career his 12-3 with a 2.59 ERA. Hopefully history tells the truth in this matchup, despite the fact that a majority of those wins came against the Devil Ray era (there goes two dollars down the drain on payday).
Series Notes and Links-
As we get ready for this series, here are some interesting links and Notes to enjoy:
Kazmir dealt to the Angels– Another smart move by Rays management. There is never going to be a time where Scott Kazmir will ever be valuable. Why not deal him? This could hurt the Tigers in a playoff series, but it is inevitable. The Angels have been on Kazmir like Jessica Simpson on a treadmill.
Jason Bartlett has been clutch for the Rays– Who would of thought, the little infielder that could! Bartlett will definitely cause fits this series.
DRaysBay looks at the difference between Boston and Tampa Bay– Pretty interesting article about the difference of these to clubs in lieu of the releasing of John Smoltz and Brad Penny.
Carl Crawford Back in the Lineup– Crawford will be in tonight as Ben Zobrist returns back to the bench.
Tigers Notes and Links:
How Unhittable has Justin Verlander been?- Ian over at Bless you Boys takes a look at Verlander’s kick ass ability to dominate hitters. Hopefully he can continue this against one of the biggest strikeout teams inthe major leagues.
Wondering how the Tigers hitters are doing after the All-Star Break?- Blake at Spot Starters breaks down every offensive position post all-star break. I am afraid to take a peak.
Tiger Tracks looks at the surging Twins– Oh no, they added two to the pen. John Parent breaks it down, and how it will effect the Tigers. John, thanks for putting more stress on Tigers fans! Just kidding!
Bunt Singles are fun!- Kurt over at Mack Avenue Tigers brings you the latest in his recent Bunt Singles segment. Including computer simulation (Kids these days and their computers, I used to do that by hand! Okay, maybe not…..)
Control is Key For Rodney– I could of told you that in 2003! Good article though by Jason Beck of MLB.com
Jackson is quietly one of the best in baseball– I so agree! Bob at Detroit4Lyfe takes a look at Jackson in detail, and how much he has meant to our Motor City Bengals.
Coming up on MCB:
TWIDTB IX: Jim Weber, the play by play for the Toledo Mud Hens will join us to talk about Nate Robertson, the Mud Hens prospects, and his 35 years in the Mud Hen Booth. Also joining us is Paul Wezner of Tigs Town to talk about Scott Green and Andy Dirks. That is all coming up on Tuesday, On This Week in Detroit Tigers Baseball!