Detroit (48-34) is atop the AL Central by five games over Kansas City, thanks in large part to winning 12 of 14 games. The Tigers are batting .296 with 20 homers and averaging 5.8 runs over that stretch.
That potent offense has been supported by outstanding performances by the starting pitchers. Detroit starters are 9-1 with a 2.16 ERA during that 14-game span, including a 1.46 mark in a season-high five-game home winning streak.
Max Scherzer tossed the latest gem, allowing one run and two hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings of an 8-1 win Thursday in the opener of this four-game set with the Rays (38-50).
Smyly (4-7, 3.57 ERA) would love to come anywhere close to matching Scherzer's outing after he lasted 2 1-3 innings Sunday in a 6-4 loss at Houston. The left-hander, who had a 1.44 ERA in his four previous starts, was tagged for four runs and eight hits.
The team revealed afterward that Smyly was battling an upper respiratory infection.
"He said he's feeling a lot better," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told MLB's official website. "He's still got a little bit of a raspy voice, so I don't think it's completely gone, but he said he was feeling OK."
This will be Smyly's third start - and sixth appearance - against the Rays. He's 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in the first five.
Miguel Cabrera continued to pound Tampa Bay pitching with three hits, including a pair of doubles, and four runs Thursday. He's batting .537 with four homers, four doubles, seven RBIs and 13 runs over the past 11 meetings.