The Detroit Tigers are thriving in nearly every facet of late, but their rotation has been particularly outstanding.
The same can't be said of Drew Smyly's latest outing.
Smyly looks to bounce back from the shortest start of his career and help the Tigers to a six-game home winning streak Friday night against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Detroit (48-34) is atop the AL Central by five games over Kansas City, thanks in large part to winning 12 of 14 games. The Tigers are batting .296 with 20 homers and averaging 5.8 runs over that stretch.
That potent offense has been supported by outstanding performances by the starting pitchers. Detroit starters are 9-1 with a 2.16 ERA during that 14-game span, including a 1.46 mark in a season-high five-game home winning streak.
Max Scherzer tossed the latest gem, allowing one run and two hits with seven strikeouts in eight innings of an 8-1 win Thursday in the opener of this four-game set with the Rays (38-50).
Smyly (4-7, 3.57 ERA) would love to come anywhere close to matching Scherzer's outing after he lasted 2 1-3 innings Sunday in a 6-4 loss at Houston. The left-hander, who had a 1.44 ERA in his four previous starts, was tagged for four runs and eight hits.
The team revealed afterward that Smyly was battling an upper respiratory infection.
"He said he's feeling a lot better," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told MLB's official website. "He's still got a little bit of a raspy voice, so I don't think it's completely gone, but he said he was feeling OK."
This will be Smyly's third start - and sixth appearance - against the Rays. He's 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA in the first five.
Miguel Cabrera continued to pound Tampa Bay pitching with three hits, including a pair of doubles, and four runs Thursday. He's batting .537 with four homers, four doubles, seven RBIs and 13 runs over the past 11 meetings.
Thursday's loss ended a season-high five-game winning streak for the Rays, who have averaged 2.5 runs during a 2-9 stretch in Detroit.
Alex Cobb (3-6, 4.20) looks to help Tampa Bay avoid a third consecutive loss at Comerica Park.
The right-hander was credited with a 12-7 win at Baltimore on Sunday but wasn't particularly sharp. He gave up four runs and eight hits over five innings.
That offensive outburst was certainly welcome after Cobb received 12 runs of support over his first 10 starts.
"I felt like I gave back a couple runs here and there and then they'd come back in the dugout and put up even more to get me comfortable again," Cobb told MLB's official website.
Run support has been a major issue for Cobb in three starts against the Tigers. He's compiled a 2.41 ERA, but is 0-1 since he's been backed by three runs and none in two of those outings.
That was the case June 5, 2013, when he allowed five hits with seven strikeouts in 7 2-3 innings before his teammates did all of their scoring in the ninth of a 3-0 road win.
Torii Hunter is 5 for 8 with a homer and five RBIs in his last two games. He's 6 for 13 lifetime against Cobb.
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