Verlander, Tigers try to salvage series finale in Tampa
Even when they've pitched well lately, neither Detroit's Justin Verlander nor Tampa Bay's Chris Archer can pick up a victory. It's been a whole lot longer, though, since Verlander got one.
Yet, a more interesting storyline going into Wednesday's series finale (11 a.m. pregame, 12:10 p.m. first pitch of FOX Sports Detroit) between the Tigers and Rays at Tropicana Field may be regarding who will be Archer's catcher.
Even if Curt Casali isn't, manager Kevin Cash could give him a first career start at designated hitter after the unheralded rookie homered four times through two games of this series - two off David Price in Tuesday's 10-2 win. He's started the past four days, but this matchup comes in the early afternoon following a night game.
Casali appears to have taken the starting role from Rene Rivera, who is batting .176 and is 1 for 17 since the All-Star break. Casali has six homers in 20 plate appearances since the break - he previously had one in 119 - and he's 6 for 8 with six RBIs in the past two games to help Tampa Bay (51-51) into position to sweep.
"I try to hit the ball hard. Rarely does it leave the park, but I'm really just trying to enjoy this," Casali said. "We're winning again, which is the most important thing, and I'm having a lot of fun right now."
Rivera, though, has caught all of Archer's outings since Casali did so in his season debut June 13.
That's the same day Verlander (0-3, 5.57 ERA) made his first appearance of 2015 after being sidelined by a strained triceps, and Detroit has lost all seven games he's started. He has never gone longer without winning, and a loss Wednesday would match the worst personal skid of his career - he dropped four straight decisions on three occasions in 2008.
The right-hander deserved his two losses this month, giving up seven runs each time, but was worthy of winning his other two starts. Verlander allowed a run in 7 2-3 innings at Minnesota on July 10 - the bullpen blew a five-run lead - and was just as good Friday with eight innings of one-run ball at Boston, but Detroit lost in 11 innings.
"A big step forward from the last game," Verlander said. "Hopefully I just feed off this and continue to move forward."
Archer (9-7, 2.67), meanwhile, is winless in a career-high five straight starts while going 0-3, equaling his worst losing streak. He couldn't be blamed for not winning his two games since the break, getting no run support as he yielded three runs in 13 innings while striking out 15. The All-Star also threw 6 2-3 scoreless innings in a 12-inning loss at Yankee Stadium on July 3.
Thanks greatly to Casali, however, the Rays offense has been hot in this series with a combined 15 runs and 23 hits - 13 for extra bases. Tim Beckham had four RBIs Tuesday while Asdrubal Cabrera went 3 for 4 with three runs in his return after missing 11 games with a strained hamstring.
Cabrera has faced Verlander far more than any Tampa Bay batter over the past three years, going 9 for 19. Verlander is 6-3 with a 3.71 ERA against the Rays but hasn't faced them since June 2013.
Archer is 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts versus Detroit.
Yoenis Cespedes is among the few Tigers to have done well against him, going 2 for 3, and has produced nearly all of Detroit's offense this week with two solo homers and an RBI single.
The fourth-place Tigers (48-52) have dropped three straight and 11 of 15, potentially leaving the four-time defending AL Central champions as sellers with the trade deadline approaching.
The Rays made a minor deal Tuesday, shipping outfielder David DeJesus to the Los Angeles Angels for minor league pitcher Eduar Lopez.