Detroit Tigers: Previewing the Tampa Bay Rays

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Johnny Field #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays, who had three runs batted in during a 12-6 win over the Boston Red Sox, celebrates with teammates at Fenway Park on April 28, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - APRIL 28: Johnny Field #10 of the Tampa Bay Rays, who had three runs batted in during a 12-6 win over the Boston Red Sox, celebrates with teammates at Fenway Park on April 28, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images) /
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The Detroit Tigers currently sit at 11-15 and in second place in the AL Central. They’ll face the 12-14 Rays, starting Monday night.

Detroit Tigers’ fans who would have liked to see more offense from the team over the weekend will have a chance this week, as the boys take on a Tampa Bay squad that has struggled to keep runs off the board this season. Here are the dates and times, along with the pitching matchups, for the three game set against the Rays:

Monday, April 30 (7:10) Jake Faria vs. Jordan Zimmermann

Tuesday, May 1 (7:10) Chris Archer vs. Matthew Boyd

Wednesday, May 2 (1:10) Blake Snell vs. Michael Fulmer

Both Faria and Archer are pitching well below expectations this season. Faria has a 6.33 ERA and Archer has a 6.61. They were both excellent last year however, and both excel at generating plenty of strikeouts. The Tigers will need to get the ball in play against the two hard throwing right-handers. If they are able to get to Faria and/or Archer early, they can get into a Tampa bullpen that has struggled this season.

Snell vs. Fulmer will be one of the most fun pitching matchups in all of baseball. Snell has been lights out, pitching to a 2.52 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP with 41 strikeouts in 35.1 innings. And outside of one bad outing, Fulmer has looked dominant. He has a 2.76 ERA and is coming off a dominant outing where he tossed six shutout innings and struck out nine.

Looking at Rays hitters

The Rays lost dynamic center fielder Kevin Kiermaier to a thumb injury earlier in the year. That has allowed speedster Mallex Smith to step into the starting lineup, where he has hit .333 with five stolen bases. He is flanked by a pair of veteran acquisitions in Denard Span and Carlos Gomez. Span looks outstanding, slashing .268/.384/.437 with three home runs and two stolen bases. Gomez has not, hitting just .178 on the year.

Former Angels first baseman C.J. Cron is the team leader in home runs with six. Catcher Wilson Ramos is tied with Gomez at four homers, and utility infielder Daniel Robertson has three, with a .345 batting average. He’s been platooning at second base with Joey Wendle, who is hitting a blistering .338 as well.

Matt Duffy and Adeiny Hechavarria round out the left side of the infield, with Brad Miller and Rob Refsnyder seeing time around the infield as well.

Overall, this is not an offense that should concern the Tigers too much. They have hit right-handers fairly well however, so don’t be surprised to see Boyd have another solid outing. Span and Wendle, two of Tampa’s best hitters, frequently sit against left-handed pitching.

Will the Detroit Tigers get to face Jonny Venters?

In case you haven’t heard, one of baseball’s best current stories is the comeback of left-handed reliever Jonny Venters. Venters threw in a regular season game for the Rays on April 25. It was his first appearance on a major league mound since October 12, 2012. Venters had three surgeries on his left elbow, including Tommy John twice, before returning to the big leagues. It’s a great story and also a sad one, as Venters was a 2011 All-Star and on track to become an elite big league bullpen piece before spending six seasons on the shelf.

How’s Miggy?

Miguel Cabrera left Sunday’s game with a left bicep spasm – and as of this writing his status for Monday’s game is in question. If Miggy is unable to go, look for the Tigers to turn to either Niko Goodrum or John Hicks to play first base in his absence. Although it doesn’t sound all that likely, it would be interesting to see what the Tigers choose to do if Miggy needs to go on the disabled list. They currently have an open 40-man roster spot, so it’s possible that Triple-A 1B Edwin Espinal, who is hitting .310, could be added to the 40-man and recalled to take his place. For now, let’s hope Miggy is healthy and able to play this week.

Next: Tigers Week Three Minor League Report

The Detroit Tigers have a chance to get within one game of .500 with a sweep this week. The Rays have stung (ha) the ball pretty well so far this season, but this is a good series for the Tigers to get themselves closer to the Indians in the AL Central.