A big reason for Max Scherzer's stellar start is the support he's received from his teammates - especially at home.
Scherzer (7-0, 3.42 ERA) appeared set to become the first Tiger since Jeremy Bonderman in 2007 to do so Friday at Baltimore when he allowed three runs, three hits, struck out 10 and left with a 5-3 lead after eight innings. However, closer Jose Valverde gave up four runs, including a walk-off three-run homer with two outs, for a 7-5 loss.
"It's always frustrating," said Scherzer, who retired the last 16 batters he faced. "At the end of the day, I always think we have one of the better teams around, so hopefully this doesn't happen too often."
The Tigers have supplied Scherzer with 8.02 runs per game this season, and 8.69 while he's gone 5-0 in six home starts despite posting a 5.17 ERA.
The Tigers (31-26), however, have totaled seven runs while Scherzer has gone 1-2 with a 3.04 ERA in four starts against Tampa Bay.
A day after losing 10-1 in the series opener, the Rays (32-26) scored all their runs in the ninth inning of Wednesday's 3-0 victory. Matt Joyce hit a tiebreaking sacrifice fly and Evan Longoria had two hits with an RBI as Tampa Bay won for the eighth time in 10 games.
The Rays have won four times in their last 17 games against the Tigers, losing seven of nine at Comerica Park.
Central-leading Detroit has dropped six of eight.
Longoria is 5 for 13 (.385) with four RBIs in his last three games. One of his two hits in eight at-bats against Scherzer was a home run.
Scheduled Rays starter Roberto Hernandez (3-5, 4.87) looks to build on his best outing of 2013 after allowing a run and three hits in a season-high 8 2-3 innings of a 3-1 win at Miami last Wednesday.
The right-hander gave up 10 runs and 14 hits over six innings in going 0-1 in his previous two outings.
"He got better as the game was in progress," manager Joe Maddon told the Rays' official website. "He's got good stuff, he knows how to pitch. A really nice breaking ball. A nice feel for what he's doing out there. He's going to be very good."
Hernandez is 8-5 with a 3.97 ERA in 17 starts against the Tigers, going 1-2 with an 8.10 ERA when he last faced them with Cleveland in 2011.
Detroit star Miguel Cabrera is batting .333 (12 for 36) with three home runs and two doubles against Hernandez. He went 0 for 2 with two intentional walks Wednesday, and leads the majors with a .366 average.
Teammate Prince Fielder is batting .333 during a 10-game hitting streak but struck out both times following those walks to Cabrera in the sixth and eighth innings.
"There's probably times you're going to roll the dice and let the pitcher pitch to Cabrera," Maddon said. "Everything depends on the pitcher. It's not a generic moment."