Detroit Tigers: Upstart Rays open challenging homestand at Comerica Park

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MAY 14: Ryan Carpenter #31 of the Detroit Tigers throws a fourth inning pitch while playing the Houston Astros at Comerica Park on May 14, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - MAY 14: Ryan Carpenter #31 of the Detroit Tigers throws a fourth inning pitch while playing the Houston Astros at Comerica Park on May 14, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

After a three-city, 10-day road trip up and down the East Coast, the Detroit Tigers return home for a six-game homestand starting with a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays Tuesday night at Comerica Park.

The Rays, who sit at an impressive 35-22, will be followed by an appearance from the first-place Minnesota Twins in the Motor City, whom the Detroit Tigers have had their struggles with. Simply put, Tigers fans will be seeing two of the American League’s best squads over the next week.

Tampa Bay gutted its roster and plunged into a full rebuild prior to the 2018 season, but shocked the league with a 90-72 overall record in the competitive American League East.

The Rays picked up right where they left off to start 2019 and currently sit in second place behind the slugging New York Yankees. A team that has historically overachieved, dating back to the Joe Maddon teams, continues to do so under current manager Kevin Cash.

Gone are the likes of Evan Longoria and Chris Archer from Tampa’s roster. The Rays come to Comerica Park with a rejuvenated squad led by Tuesday’s starter and reigning AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell and sleeper MVP candidate Austin Meadows stepping into the national picture.

The Rays boast the best pitching staff in all of baseball, entering the series with a league-leading team ERA of 2.98 and the least number of hits surrendered so far in 2019. The Detroit Tigers will see two of the Rays best in games one and two, as Snell (3-4, 3.06 ERA) and Charlie Morton (6-0 2.54 ERA) will take the hill.

It won’t get any easier for the Detroit Tigers in the late innings, as the Rays are third in baseball with a 3.33 bullpen ERA. Jose Alvarado leads the team in saves with six, while the rest of the bullpen features devastating power arms such as Ryne Stanek and Hunter Wood.

The Rays’ pitching is what garners national headlines, but the team’s breakout season has also been aided by an offense that ranks seventh in baseball in batting average and 12th in slugging percentage.

That offense has been led by Meadows, who owns a robust .357 batting average with 12 home runs after being acquired in the Chris Archer trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Other impact bats include former St. Louis Cardinal Tommy Pham (.305 BA) and former Tiger Avisail Garcia (.301 BA).

The rise to power for Tampa Bay has been spearheaded by a number of savvy trades and signings led by a general manager and president of baseball operations Erik Neander. The most impactful deal was the theft of Meadows and elite young starter Tyler Glasnow for the struggling ace Archer.

An underrated swap for infielder Yandy Díaz, who makes some of the hardest contact in baseball, and grabbing Pham from St. Lous are others. He even acquired starting shortstop Willy Adames from the Tigers as part of the David Price deal.

A roster also bolstered by the bargain signings of the former world champion Morton and Garcia have rounded out an impressive group that will invade the visiting clubhouse. The Rays ability to acquire young talent in trades and efficiently utilize free agency has propelled them to where they are today.

There’s sure to be an extra boost of energy in the Tigers dugout with the news of the No. 5 overall pick Riley Greene’s addition to the organization, but the team will need impressive performances if it wants to compete with the Rays.

Detroit, which lost series in New York and Atlanta but picked up a series victory in Baltimore, will send Ryan Carpenter to the mound on Tuesday to battle Snell. Carpenter is coming off a five-inning, two-run performance against the Orioles last Wednesday.

The Tigers offense, which lost Jeimer Candelario to the injured list Tuesday afternoon, found a rhythm in Atlanta behind the emergence of Brandon Dixon and Jacoby Jones. Miguel Cabrera will start in the DH spot Tuesday after suffering a knee injury in Friday’s game against Atlanta that required an MRI.

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How do you think the Tigers will fare against the Rays during this series and the Twins later this week? Feel free to express your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.