ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers have scored 10 runs in three straight games, and the task of stopping those scorching bats Saturday falls on rookie Blake Snell, who makes just his fifth career start.
Snell has one of the Rays' two wins in the last 16 games, but if he's going to win, he'll have to beat one of the American League's best in Justin Verlander, who takes the mound as Detroit seeks its fifth win in a row.
"I think every single one of us knows what we're capable of," said Friday's Rays starter Drew Smyly, who gave up six runs in dropping to 2-9 on the season. "We just have to go out and do it. No team's going to let us just take one. We have to go out and take it ourselves."
Verlander is a mortal 7-6 this season with a 4.30 ERA, and struggled in his last outing, giving up nine hits and eight earned runs in 4.2 innings in a loss to red-hot Cleveland. That ended a run of four straight victories for him that had dropped his ERA from 4.11 to 3.78.
In his career against the Rays, Verlander is 7-3 with a 3.49 ERA -- in his only meeting against Tampa Bay last season, he dominated, giving up just one earned run in eight innings while striking out 10 batters.
Snell was USA Today's Minor League Pitcher of the Year last season, and he has a 3.54 ERA in his first four appearances. He has yet to give up a home run in four starts, the second longest streak to open a career in Rays history.
He'll face a Tigers lineup that's ridiculously hot at the plate -- they've scored 10 or more runs in three straight games for the first time in nearly 20 years. They had scored 18 straight runs against the Rays before Brad Miller's two-run home run in the ninth inning Friday.
The biggest bats have been Cameron Maybin -- six hits in the last two games -- and Victor Martinez, who crushed two three-run home runs in Friday's win. Martinez has a .354 career average against the Rays, the second-highest all-time among opponents with 250 plate appearances, trailing only the Twins' Joe Mauer. His average at Tropicana Field is even stronger at .368 -- his best of any park in which he's played 10 or more games in his career.
"He's got a bunch of hits and had the RBIs early," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Maybin's recent surge. "He's been like that since he came back. He does a nice job getting on base, he's a threat to steal, he's had good at-bats, for the most part since his return from the DL. He brings a great energy to our dugout."