The good news for the D-backs is they are back home after struggling through a 2-4 road trip to Washington and Denver, hitting .195 and scoring 18 runs in the six games. For the season, they average 3.1 runs per game on the road with a .205 batting average, compared with a major-league leading 6.5 runs and .301 average at home.
The bad news is they are up against one of the premier pitchers in baseball in Detroit's Justin Verlander.
Tonight's game opens a nine-game home stand, though just the first two are against the Tigers (15-15). The Pirates are in for four starting on Thursday, followed by three against the Mets.
D-backs starting pitcher Robbie Ray (2-3, 3.47 ERA)
Ray's most recent start came against Washington, the team that originally drafted him out of high school. Now he goes up against the team for which he made his major-league debut. He was 1-4 with an 8.16 ERA in nine appearances with Detroit as a 22-year-old in 2014 before being traded to Arizona the following winter in a three-team deal that sent shortstop Didi Gregorius to the Yankees and pitcher Shane Greene from New York to the Tigers.
Ray has been a victim of tough luck in his last two starts, giving up two runs in a loss at Washington and three runs in a loss to Colorado. In 12 1/3 innings, he allowed just nine hits, four walks and five runs while striking out 19. He ranks fourth among all major-league pitchers with an average of 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
The D-backs starting rotation has a cumulative ERA of 3.69 -- seventh best in the majors, all the more impressive given that 20 of the team's 33 games have been played in two of the major's most hitter-friendly environments (17 at Chase Field, 3 at Coors Field). "In what people categorized as a very offensive environment, our starting pitchers have been studs," Arizona manager Torey Lovullo.
Verlander is 2-0 with a 1.84 ERA in two career starts vs. Arizona -- one at Chase Field and one in Detroit. He was the winning pitcher at Chase on July 21, 2014, giving up six hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Verlander has given up two runs or fewer in four of his six starts this season. He was the winning pitcher against Cleveland a week ago today, allowing four hits and two runs in seven innings pitched.
The 34-year-old right-hander has 175 career victories and has won 10 or more games in 11 of the last 12 seasons. He led the AL with 254 strikeouts last season, but his strikeout rate has dropped from 10.0 per nine innings to 8.7 through the early part of this season.
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The Tigers are coming off of a pair of walk-off losses in Oakland on Saturday and Sunday in which veteran closer Francisco Rodriguez was unable to protect a pair of one-run leads. Rodriguez is 1-4 with seven saves, four blown saves and an 8.49 ERA in 13 appearances this season, and Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said after Sunday that the team would have a "discussion" regarding its closer situation moving forward.
Lefty Justin Wilson has been outstanding as Rodriguez's setup man, recording a 1.32 ERA while striking out 22 batters in 13 2/3 innings.
"We're going to have to have a discussion," Ausmus said. "He certainly has earned a degree of respect with his performance over the years, including what he did for us last year. It's not as simple as people like to think it is."
D-backs closer Fernando Rodney began his career in Detroit in 2002 and recorded the first 70 of his 269 career saves with the Tigers. He's bounced back from a pair of blown saves to close out victories in his last two appearances, retiring all five batters he's faced. He is 8 of 10 in save opportunities, despite a 10.80 ERA. Arizona's relief corps as a whole has surrendered only five earned runs in its last 25 1/3 innings.
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Scouting the Tigers
With no designated hitter in this series, Victor Martinez will head to the bench for Detroit. Another slugger, J.D. Martinez, is on a rehab assignment and has yet to play in a major-league game due to a foot injury suffered during spring training.
Veteran first baseman Miguel Cabrera has hit in all five games since returning from a groin injury that sidelined him for nine games. He's hitting .273 with four home runs. Former D-back Justin Upton, in his second season with the Tigers, is hitting .264 with five homers.
Upton has hit eight home runs in 30 games against the D-backs since being traded away prior to the 2013 season.