Looking to avoid matching their longest losing streak of the season, the Detroit Tigers appear to be sending the right pitcher to the mound.
Max Scherzer will try to become the majors' first 12-game winner and snap Detroit's three-game skid Friday night in the opener of a three-game road series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
With a 3-1, 10-inning loss to the Angels on Thursday, the Tigers (42-35) were swept at home for the first time since April 24-26, 2012, versus Seattle.
Detroit, however, should feel confident about getting an 11-game road trip off to a strong start with Scherzer (11-0, 3.05 ERA) going in the opener.
Scherzer, tied with Washington's Jordan Zimmermann for the major league lead with 11 victories, has been particularly outstanding with 31 strikeouts and a 2.00 ERA during a four-start winning streak.
Scherzer allowed two runs - both in the first inning - over seven innings in a 10-3 victory over Boston on Saturday.
Now, he has a chance to become the first to win his first 12 decisions since Roger Clemens did it during a 14-0 stretch to begin his AL MVP season with Boston in 1986.
"It just means we're playing great team baseball and I'm going out there and doing my job,' Scherzer said. "I'm credited a ton of run support. That's when you've got to give all the credit to your teammates. Every time I feel like I go deep into a game, they're going to pick me up. They have the whole entire season."
While Scherzer has benefited from the best run-support average in baseball at 7.84, the Tigers will have to regroup after being held to fewer than two runs for the first time in 20 games Thursday.
Scherzer is 2-2 with a 2.64 ERA in five career starts versus the Rays after fanning nine and giving up one run over seven innings in a 5-2 home win June 6. He's done a solid job holding down key hitters Desmond Jennings (1 for 9), Evan Longoria (2 for 11), Ben Zobrist (1 for 12) and Matt Joyce (2 for 13).
The Rays (41-38) have struggled offensively at home of late, averaging 2.6 runs and hitting .167 with runners in scoring position while dropping five of eight there.
James Loney has been one of the team's bright spots, batting .406 over an eight-game hit streak overall.
He had one of the team's two hits off Toronto's R.A. Dickey as Tampa Bay had its three-game win streak stopped in a 3-0 loss Wednesday.
"We didn't hit, I think, even one ball hard,' manager Joe Maddon said.
Tampa Bay starter Alex Colome (1-0, 0.00) has yet to allow an earned run in two starts, giving up four unearned and 10 hits in 10 innings over that span.
The rookie right-hander lasted 4 1-3 innings, yielding three runs, five walks and five hits before leaving without a decision in a 7-5 loss to the Yankees on Saturday.
Colome will get his first look at slugger Miguel Cabrera, who is batting .447 with four homers during an 12-game hitting streak.
Cabrera and Prince Fielder went a combined 11 for 21 to help the Tigers take two of three from Tampa Bay in Detroit earlier this month.
Cabrera is 13 for 25 in his last seven games versus the Rays, while Fielder is 8 for 15 in his last four.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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