The Tampa Bay Rays have won 10 of 12 and are on a hard push for the playoffs. They host a four game set against the AL Central leading Detroit Tigers, starting tonight with Cy Young contender Justin Verlander and the resurgent Jeff Niemann on the hill.
The teams tend to play thrillers, including the blown call at home that led to a Rays loss on June 13th (including ejections of Joe Maddon and David Price) and Matt Garza's no-hitter in 2010, the club's first. Detroit is coming off a sweep of division rivals Cleveland, who were hot on their tail until that series, and want to preserve that lead. The Tigers have won 7 of their last 13 and the Rays could roll, granted the offense continues to show up.
Tampa Bay's biggest obstacle: Verlander, who currently leads the majors in strikeouts (204) and innings pitched (202.2) but was roughed up the last time he saw the Rays, allowing six runs over nine hits. Niemann's last outing was a complete game shut down of the Red Sox in Fenway, two runs over three hits and 114 pitches. The Rays are hoping for a repeat of both performances.
- Monday: Justin Verlander (18-5, 2.53 ERA, 2.68 FIP) vs. Jeff Niemann (6-0, 1.71 ERA in last eight starts)
- Tuesday: Brad Penny (8-9, 4.97 ERA, 4.77 FIP) vs. David Price (11-10, 3.73 ERA, 2.95 xFIP)
- Wednesday: Max Scherzer (13-7, 4.23 ERA, 3.74 xFIP) vs. Wade Davis (8-7, 4.43 ERA, 4.68 FIP)
- Thursday: Doug Fister (2-1, 4.11 ERA since trade) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (11-8, 2.40 ERA at home)