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Rays, Tigers hook up

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Tampa Bay (40-50) at Detroit (48-36)

First pitch: Sunday, 8:10 p.m. ET Line and Total: Rays -110, Tigers +110, Total 7.5

The Rays and Tigers do battle Sunday night in the finale of their four-game series.

Tampa Bay has been having a dreadful season, but has turned it on lately by going 9-3 over its past 12 games. Six of those victories came against division rivals, and in the Rays' most recent series, they swept the Yankees in three games; allowing just seven runs in the set. But their offense was able to muster only two hits in their 8-1 defeat at the hands of the Tigers on Thursday, with OF Desmond Jennings (.241 BA) having one of those hits and is 5-for-13 with two doubles and two runs in his past three contests. Detroit has once again taken a strong five-game lead in the AL Central, coming away with victories in 12 of the past 16 contests.

Max Scherzer gave his club eight innings of two-hit, one-run baseball in the series-opening rout, and was backed by home runs from 2B Ian Kinsler, DH Victor Martinez and OF Torii Hunter. Kinsler has been on fire over his past 10 games coming into Friday, going 16-for-40 (.400) with two doubles, three homers, 10 RBI and nine runs. Sunday's pitching matchup is a great one, as Rays LHP David Price (7-7, 3.50 ERA) goes toe-to-toe with RHP Rick Porcello (11-4, 3.12 ERA) for the Tigers. The road has not been easy for Tampa Bay, as it has gone just 20-26 in away games through Saturday, but Detroit is a pedestrian 23-20 in front of its hometown fans this season. Over the past three years, the Tigers hold a 9-6 edge in this series, which includes a 5-3 record at home.

Amidst all of the frequent trade rumors surrounding David Price, he has managed to put together another solid season while dropping his ERA from 4.42 to his current 3.50 over his past seven starts. In that time he has posted five double-digit strikeout performances and 69 punch-outs in 53.2 innings (11.6 K/9). Overall on the year he has mowed down 10.5 batters per nine innings while having a miniscule 1.2 BB/9, but his 17 home runs allowed are tied for second-worst in the league. In Price’s last outing, he went seven strong innings while allowing only one run on four hits and three walks with nine strikeouts in a win over the Yankees. In his career against Detroit, Price has gone 4-1 in seven games (5 starts) with a 2.23 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, and has allowed just one home run in 36.1 frames.

DH Victor Martinez is one player that has owned the lefty over his career, going 8-for-17 with two doubles, three homers and 5 RBI. On the other hand, 1B Miguel Cabrera (1-for-14, 6 K’s) and OF Austin Jackson (2-for-14, 8 K’s) have had no luck in the matchup. Prior to Friday’s contest, the Rays bullpen has gone 14-14 with a 3.80 ERA and 1.22 WHIP while saving 17-of-25 (68%) games. Grant Balfour has lost his job as closer and Joel Peralta (4.00 ERA, 1 save), Jake McGee (1.21 ERA, 3 saves) and Juan Oviedo (2.48 ERA, 1 save) are all getting chances to earn ninth-inning appearances.

Rick Porcello became the first Tigers’ pitcher since 1944 to throw two consecutive complete-game shutouts when he dominated Oakland in his last start, allowing just four hits while failing to record either a strikeout or walk. Overall in his past three starts (24 IP), Porcello has given up just 13 hits while holding his opponents scoreless and going 3-0. At just 25 years old, Porcello already has nearly 1,000 innings (975.1 IP) and has put together six straight seasons of double-digit wins despite striking out just 5.4 batters per nine innings over his career. He has been somewhat lucky in 2014 though, with batters hitting .266 BABIP, while he has held a career-high 75.7% of runners on base. Against the Rays, Porcello has gone 2-2 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.06 WHIP, and has given up just one home run in that time (33 IP).

OF Desmond Jennings is a solid 3-for-10 with 1 RBI in the matchup against Porcello, while 2B Ben Zobrist, 3B Evan Longoria, OF Matt Joyce and INF Sean Rodriguez have combined to go just 4-for-30 (.133) with six strikeouts against him. Through Thursday’s game, the Tigers’ bullpen has gone 11-10 with a subpar 4.61 ERA and 1.39 WHIP while converting 22-of-30 (73%) saves. Joe Nathan (6.16 ERA, 17 saves) is only 17-for-22 in his save chances and has already allowed five home runs in 30.2 innings.

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