Detroit Tigers vs. Tampa Rays Preview and Pick

Detroit Tigers (55-53) +165, 8 1/2 at Tampa Bay Rays (63-44), 7:10 pm Eastern Friday
by Zman of

After winning a road trip, the upstart Tampa Bay Rays have extended their lead in the AL East to three games. Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers, while still right there in the AL Central race, just traded a quality veteran in C Pudge Rodriguez.

Thus is the situation as the Tigers and Rays commence a three-game weekend series Friday night at Tropicana Field.

Baseball bookmakers are listing Tampa and starting pitcher Scott Kazmir (8-5, 2.84, 1.16 WHIP) as 180 home favorites for Friday’s game, with a total of 8 1/2, while Detroit and Zach Miner (5-3, 3.65, 1.36) are getting +165 as road underdogs.

The Tigers just split a four-game series in Cleveland, losing 9-4 Thursday night. Meanwhile, Tampa won at Toronto Wednesday 3-2 to conclude a winning 4-3 road trip.

So going into this weekend’s play, Detroit is in third place in the AL Central, 5 1/2 games back of the first-place Chicago White Sox, while Tampa leads the Boston Red Sox by three in the East.

Detroit is 26-31 on the road this year, 13-23 as underdogs, and 53-55 vs. the run line.

Tampa is an AL-best 40-16 at home this season, 44-22 as favorites, and 54-53 vs. the run line.

Somewhat strangely, this is the first encounter between these two teams this season.

Last year, TB took the season series from Detroit four games to three, with the totals going 3-2-2, as the games averaged 11 total runs per.

Miner pitched out of the bullpen for most of this season, but will be making his third start of this year Friday night. In his most recent outing, Miner held the White Sox to two ER in six innings of a 6-4 Tigers victory.

Miner has started two games in his career vs. Tampa, both coming in 2006.

Over his last three starts, including a winning five-inning effort vs. Kansas City last Saturday, Kazmir has given up seven ER and 23 BR in 18 IP. Tampa Bay is 11-5 in Kazmir’s starts this year, the totals 5-11.

Kazmir started one game last year vs. the Tigers, shutting the Kitties out over six innings in an 8-1 Rays win.

And in his eight starts at home this season, Kazmir is 5-1 with a 1.68 ERA.

Offensively, Detroit ranks 5th in the majors this season in team BA at .278, 6th in team OBP at .344, 5th in team slugging at .443, and is averaging 5.1 runs per game.

Tampa ranks 20th in batting at .257, 14th in OBP at .333, 21st in slugging at .408, and is averaging 4.4 RPG.

Over the last five games, the Tigers bullpen has allowed 10 ER and 35 BR in 21 1/3 IP.

Over its’ last five games, the Tampa pen has given up three ER and 16 BR in 14 IP.

On the injury front, Detroit closer Todd Jones is on the DL with a sore shoulder. But the Tigers expect to have reliever Kyle Farnsworth, whom they picked up in the Rodriguez trade with the Yankees, in their stable Friday night.

The totals are 50-51 in Tigers games this year, but five of their last seven games have gone over the totals, mainly because Detroit pitching has given up 48 runs over that span.

On the other side of the ledger, the totals are a lop-sided 42-63 in Rays games, and eight of their last 10 games have gone under the totals, as Tampa has scored just 28 runs and allowed only 32 over that span.

And the totals are 21-34 in games played at Tropicana Field this year, as the games are averaging just 7.8 total runs, 4th-fewest among all ML ballparks.

Zman’s Pick: Zach Miner is not likely to go deep into this game which means the bullpen will be summoned early. Not a good spot for the Tigers here. We like Tampa to win easily tonight.