The Rays just can't get a break. After traveling up to Toronto for a two game series last week and then flying back down to south Florida to face the Marlins this weekend, the Rays are now bouncing up north again to face the Detroit Tigers. The Rays have bounced all around the country over the last few weeks, and as Jason Collette from DRaysBay points out, this is only the beginning:
It'd be one thing if the Rays were flying all around to face teams that stunk, but they've been challenged in each series so far: Toronto is no pushover, the Marlins are a very strong team, and the Tigers look like they'll be a challenge. The Tigers are only a .500 team so far this season, but the Rays get the added benefit of facing Justin Verlander. This series isn't going to be a walk in the park for the Rays, that's for sure.
Today, the Rays send Jeremy Hellickson to the mount to face Phil Coke. Hellickson has struggled at times this season and he's walking more batters than was expected (almost 4 BB/9), but he's still been an overall solid pitcher for the Rays and shown lots of positive signs. He's missing lots of bats with his pitches (11% whiff rate), and even though he's walked more batters, he's not missing with pitches over the middle of the plate.
Phil Coke is a mediocre starter that has spent the majority of the last few seasons in the minors or the bullpen, and as a lefty without dominating stuff, he's routinely had trouble against right-handed batters. His strikeouts are way down this season (5.3 K/9), suggesting that his stuff doesn't translate as well to a starting role, but he's still had success to this point (3.88 ERA, 3.56 FIP). Maddon will likely stack the lineup with right-handed batters, and hopefully the Rays can capitalize.
Today's game is scheduled for 7:05 PM.