The Tampa Bay Rays (26-23) look to end their extended skid today, taking on the Detroit Tigers (25-23) in a matinée game. Taking the bump for the Rays will be swing man Andy Sonnanstine (0-1, 4.21 ERA, 6.14 FIP), who has been both unspectacular and quite lucky in his first three starts of the season.
Sonny, who has been filling in for the injured (and ineffective) Jeff Niemann, has allowed everything but runs in his starts, walking batters, surrendering hits, and striking out very few. For the Rays to get any productivity out of Sonnanstine, they will need him to recover his once-precise command because his pitches are sub-standard and do not blow away hitters.
Opposing the Rays will be veteran Brad Penny (4-4, 4.45 ERA, 4.49 FIP). Penny is coming off a rough outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he went 5.2 innings and allowed 5 earned runs. The 33-year-old right hander -- who's birthday was yesterday -- is looking for somewhat of a career resurgence after only pitching 55+ innings last year. He has not been off to a great start, though, striking out only 3.88 batters per 9 innings while walking 3.16.
Given the lower quality of the day's starters, the Rays will be hoping to score early and often to give Sonnanstine a comfortable lead. The Rays may be without their hottest hitter, though, in Matt Joyce. The right fielder suffered two separate injuries in yesterday's game, smashing his knee into the wall on an outstanding catch in right field and getting his wrist smacked by a ball while sliding into home plate.
Joyce played through the injuries yesterday, but Rays manager Joe Maddon may elect to rest Joyce, though the Rays certainly could use his bat. Among players with at least 100 plate appearances, Matt Joyce ranks 3rd in weighted on-base average (wOBA) and 2nd in weighted runs created plus (wRC+) -- second only to the transcendent Jose Bautista.
Here's hoping he feels well enough to play today.
Game time: 1:05 p.m. ET at Comerica Park
Television: Sun Sports HD
Radio: WDAE 620