Rangers-Tigers Preview

Rain in Detroit on Friday was the only thing preventing the

Texas Rangers from slugging their way to another victory. Tigers

pitchers Rick Porcello and Justin Verlander will try to be the next

to keep that red-hot club at bay.

Porcello and Verlander will look to build on their first

victories of the season during Saturday’s day-night doubleheader

against the Rangers, winners of seven in a row.

Before Friday night’s game at Comerica Park was washed out,

Texas (11-2) was among the major league leaders with a .306 batting

average, .521 slugging percentage, 23 homers and 79 runs. The

Rangers have scored 53 of those runs during this win streak while

batting .345 with 13 homers.

They produced 19 hits during a 10-3 win in Thursday’s series

opener and rematch of last year’s AL championship series, which

Texas won in six games.

“(The rain is) something you can’t control,” said Texas’ Mike

Napoli, who has five homers in his last four games. “We’ll go do

the split doubleheader tomorrow and start with Game 1 and go from

there.”

Texas also boasts one of the AL’s best ERAs at 2.38, and its

starters are 9-0 for the first time in team history.

“They’re such a tremendously solid team in all areas – starting

pitching, defense, bullpen, offense,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland

said. “They have a lot of nice weapons, they have a lot of

versatility. They’re very good – and we are, too.”

Matt Harrison (2-0, 0.64 ERA) will try to keep the Rangers’ run

going with another impressive outing in the first game.

The left-hander gave up one run over eight innings of a 4-1

victory in Minnesota on April 13 but hasn’t fared as well against

the Tigers lately. He’s 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in his last three

matchups, including Game 4 of the ALCS, and 0-3 with a 6.23 ERA in

four starts at Comerica.

Porcello (1-0, 1.84), who will oppose Harrison, allowed one run

over six innings during his most recent regular-season matchup

against the Rangers, an 8-1 road victory June 7. He gave up three

runs over 6 2-3 innings in Game 4 of last year’s series, a 7-3

victory in 11 innings.

The right-hander has yielded two runs or fewer in each of his

first two starts and gave up one over 7 2-3 innings in Sunday’s 5-2

win over Chicago.

If Porcello can’t derail the Rangers, the Tigers will look to

their ace to complete that task in the nightcap.

After failing to earn a victory in his first two outings,

Verlander (1-1, 2.13) gave up two runs and struck out nine Monday

in a 3-2 complete-game win against Kansas City.

The right-hander had only one victory through his first four

starts in 2011 before finishing a career-best 24-5 en route to AL

Cy Young and MVP honors.

“A lot of those (wins) last year came pretty easy,” he said. “I

told everyone my goal this season is to be a better pitcher, even

if my numbers might not be as good.”

Verlander is 5-1 with a 1.72 ERA in his past seven

regular-season starts against Texas, but the Rangers were one of

the five teams to hand him a loss last year with a 2-0 defeat April

11 at Comerica. He fared even worse versus Texas in the postseason,

going 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA.

Verlander might have to outduel Neftali Feliz (1-0, 2.25) if he

wants to earn another win over the Rangers. The converted reliever

shined in his first start with seven strong innings during a 1-0

win over Seattle on April 10.

He gave up three runs over five innings Sunday and did not get a

decision in a 4-3 victory at Minnesota.

“He’s obviously not coming out there full barrel anymore, like

you do when you’re coming in to close the game out. Starting the

game, you’ve got to pace yourself,” Leyland said. “But he’s

obviously got tremendous stuff.”