Tigers-Rays Preview

The Detroit Tigers have built a sizable lead in the AL Central

mainly by beating teams from their own division. However, they’ve

also collected plenty of wins against the Tampa Bay Rays this

season.

The Tigers will try to extend their win streak to six with a

seventh consecutive victory over the Rays on Wednesday night.

Detroit (70-58) is 30-18 against AL Central opponents this

season and 33-29 against the other two divisions, but they haven’t

lost in five games with Tampa Bay.

Red-hot Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta each drove in a run in the

seventh inning Tuesday at Tropicana Field, and Phil Coke helped his

team hold on for a 2-1 win while throwing 51 pitches over two

innings.

Coke was serving as a substitute for set-up man Joaquin Benoit

and closer Jose Valverde, who were both given the night off.

“You know you’re running into a buzz saw with that (Tampa Bay)

pitching staff, but we pitched pretty good, too,” manager Jim

Leyland said.

Avila is batting .429 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 19 games

this month and has made 17 consecutive starts behind the plate with

Victor Martinez hampered by a sore left knee. If Max Scherzer can

duplicate his most recent outing, he might not need much help from

Avila and the rest of his teammates.

Scherzer (13-7, 4.23 ERA) gave up one run and five hits over

seven innings Friday in a 4-1 win over Cleveland after allowing

four or more runs in each of his previous two starts.

“We know we all want to make the playoffs, and we all know that,

as a staff, we’ve got to pitch well,” Scherzer told the team’s

official website. “One through five, it doesn’t matter. Obviously

(Justin) Verlander is having one of the best seasons anybody’s

going to have, but we have to pitch well. We just can’t rely on

him.

“Everybody on the pitching staff, everybody in this clubhouse

has to play to their potential, has to do their job and go out

there and play their best. Otherwise, we don’t win.”

Scherzer lost both of his starts last season against the Rays

(69-58) despite posting a 2.84 ERA. He received zero runs of

support over 12 2-3 innings.

Tampa Bay right-hander Wade Davis, meanwhile, will also seek his

first win over the Tigers and first in four overall starts

Wednesday. He gave up two runs over seven innings and struck out a

season-high eight in a 3-2 win Friday against Seattle.

Davis (8-7, 4.43) has no record and a 3.46 ERA in two career

starts against Detroit and surrendered five runs over six innings

during a 7-6 loss at Comerica Park on May 24.

Avila had a pair of home runs in that game, including a solo

shot off Davis, and Miguel Cabrera helped his team rally with a

three-run homer in the fifth inning.

Davis is hoping to get some help from B.J. Upton, who might

return to the starting lineup Wednesday. The outfielder strained

his right shoulder while attempting to make a catch in the eighth

inning of Monday’s 5-2 loss. He struck out in a pinch-hit

appearance Tuesday.

“I have some stiffness,” he told the team’s official website

before the game. “I think the biggest thing, right now, is seeing

exactly what I can do.”