If the recent form of Max Scherzer and Chris Archer is any indication, the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays could be in for a low-scoring affair in the opener of a three-game series (6 p.m. pregame, 7:10 first pitch on FOX Sports Detroit).
The right-handers square off Tuesday night at Tropicana Field, and in addition to noteworthy efforts in their last starts, both pitchers were dominant in outings during last month’s series in Detroit.
Scherzer (14-4, 2.98 ERA), who can become the first AL pitcher to 15 wins, has gone 6-1 with a 1.78 ERA in 10 starts since June 22. In that time, only Corey Kluber, Felix Hernandez and Jon Lester have posted better ERAs in the AL.
His last start was his best in that period as he threw eight scoreless innings, allowed three hits and struck out a season-high 14 to win 5-2 over Pittsburgh on Thursday. Scherzer had eight strikeouts through four innings, which had him eyeing big numbers.
"I was thinking about it, but not for the reason you probably think," he said. "When I’m getting that many strikeouts early, it means I’ve throwing all four of my pitches, I’m getting hitters into the kill-zone counts and I’m putting them away. When that’s happening, I know I’m probably going to have a good day."
He was about as effective July 3 against Tampa Bay, surrendering a run and two hits while striking out seven in eight innings of an 8-1 win. It was Scherzer’s fourth straight victory over the Rays and gave him a 2.25 ERA against them.
Ben Zobrist (2 for 18), Matt Joyce (2 for 17), Desmond Jennings (2 for 15) and Evan Longoria (2 for 14) have struggled against him. Yunel Escobar is 11 for 30 in the matchup.
Archer (8-6, 3.24) is also coming off a dominant effort in Wednesday’s 10-1 win in Texas. He earned the decision while allowing a run and four hits and striking out a career-high 12 in seven innings.
"It’s just one of those situations where you get in the zone and you black out," Archer said. "Your hard work and practice takes over."
In three starts this month, he’s 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 19 innings.
He also beat Detroit 7-2 on July 5 with 8 1-3 innings of two-run ball.
Archer has held Ian Kinsler to a 1-for-10 effort with four strikeouts, but J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila homered off him last month.
The series in which both pitchers appeared from July 3-6 ended with the Rays (61-63) taking three of four.
Both teams follow an off day Monday seeking bounce-back efforts after losing two of three in their home weekend series.
The Tigers (66-56) gave up ground in a wild-card battle with Seattle and fell 8-1 on Sunday, finishing with seven runs scored in the series.
"We need to play better," manager Brad Ausmus told MLB’s official website. "We’re a better team than this. Period."
Victor Martinez remained locked in at the plate with a two-hit day. He’s gone 8 for 16 with five RBIs and a .600 on-base percentage in his last five games.
After a 3-2 homestand, the Tigers head back out on the road looking to snap a season-high five-game losing streak away from home.
Tampa Bay’s 4-2 loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday also featured some weak offense. The Rays managed five hits, and they batted .205 in the series.
It was the first time in 13 games they allowed more than three runs, but they’ve gone just 7-6 in that time.