The Detroit Tigers showed the kind of mettle that make them the reigning three-time AL Central champions to open this crucial seven-game road trip.
They’re counting on Rick Porcello to display some of his own Wednesday night as their series continues versus the Rays at Tampa Bay.
Locked in a battle for the second wild-card spot – the Tigers (67-56) are one percentage point ahead of Seattle – and chasing Kansas City in the division, Detroit overcame an early 4-0 deficit to defeat the Rays 8-6 in 11 innings Tuesday. Victor Martinez drove home a tiebreaking run with a bases-loaded walk and Joe Nathan converted his 26th save despite allowing a run in his inning of work for the second straight appearance.
"We did what we had to do," said outfielder Torii Hunter, who also scored in the three-run 11th. "Had good at-bats and we came through with some runs."
Porcello (13-8, 3.28) looks to avoid a fourth consecutive loss and help the Tigers win consecutive road games for the first time since July 23-24. After taking the loss pitching the final two innings in Detroit’s 6-5, 19-inning defeat to Toronto on Aug. 10, the right-hander pitched on normal rest and was tagged for six runs and 10 hits in six innings of a 7-2 defeat to Seattle on Friday.
"The game in Toronto had nothing to do with what happened tonight," Porcello said. "I had plenty of time to get ready for this start, and I prepared just like I always do. I just didn’t pitch well."
Porcello also didn’t pitch well in his only start this season against the Rays, who battered him for seven runs and 11 hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 7-3 victory on July 6. He is 2-3 with a 3.96 ERA lifetime against Tampa Bay.
Following their charge to reach .500 by winning 32 of 47, the Rays (61-64) have dropped three in a row to fall seven games back of the Tigers and severely damage their already slim chances of claiming the second wild-card spot. James Loney went 3 for 4 with a three-run homer and is 10 for 25 with two homers and eight RBIs in his last six games.
Rays infielder Ben Zobrist, who went 2 for 3 with an RBI, is 10 for 18 in his last four games against Detroit. He’s 3 for 11 lifetime against Porcello and batting .440 during a three-game hitting streak at home.
Outfielder Wil Myers could return after being activated from the 60-day disabled list Wednesday. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year was batting just .227 before missing 70 games with a broken wrist.
Jake Odorizzi (9-9, 3.82) has been Tampa Bay’s hottest starter and is looking to improve to 6-1 in his last seven starts. He made only one mistake in seven innings Thursday at Texas – a two-run homer by Geovany Soto – in a 6-3 victory, and the right-hander has struck out 37 over 35 1-3 innings in his last six outings.
"The guy’s confident," manager Joe Maddon said of his 24-year-old pitcher, who has never faced the Tigers. "He’s swaggering out to the mound, and swaggering back in."
Odorizzi is 4-5 in 13 home starts despite a 3.10 ERA and has struck out 82 in 72 2-3 innings there.
He’ll try to continue the swagger of a starting rotation that has compiled a 2.31 ERA since the All-Star break as the Rays have gone 17-11 to claw back to the fringes of the AL wild-card chase. Tuesday’s loss snapped a club-record 13-game streak in which Tampa Bay starters allowed three or fewer runs.