With the off day today and the depressing loss last night, I thought it might be nice to look towards the near future. So, here are some thoughts on the upcoming pitching match-ups in the Rays-Tigers series.
Friday: Matt Garza vs. Rick Porcello
It's hard to overstate the importance of a win on Friday, and, if Garza brings his Good Garza stuff, he's the guy to make sure the Rays get it. On the other hand, if Bad Garza shows up it means trouble for the often offensively challenged Rays. The Rays will probably need Good Garza because they're up against a rookie pitcher who they've never seen before, which means they're likely to make the kid look like a Cy Young contender. Porcello has been a major contributor to the "success" the Tigers have had this year, and after a shaky July he seems to have righted the ship in August. He has a 4.60 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP at home this year, which means that, if the Rays can avoid flailing wildly away at the plate, they might get a few free base-runners from him. The key to this game, however, is probably Garza, who is 0-3 in five starts against the Tigers with a 4.94 ERA with a 1.03 WHIP (at Tigers Stadium: 0-1 in two starts, 6.10 ERA, 1.68 WHIP). Let's be optimistic and assume Good Garza shows up and the Rays take the opener.
Saturday: David Price vs. Nate Robertson
Armando Galaraga was sent down to AAA to rest an inflamed elbow, so the Rays will see Nate Robertson, who is himself returning from the DL. The bad news about this is that Robertson is a leftie, and it's said he's pitched very well in his rehab starts. The good news is that Robertson is a poor fielder who was awful out of the pen for most of the year and who hasn't started yet this season. Maybe, just maybe, the Rays can get to him in a big way (instead of making him look like a freaking ace like they did for Rzepczynski). They'll probably need to do exactly that if Price brings the 8.07 ERA, 2.27 WHIP stuff he's brought on road trips so far this season. I'll be pleasantly surprised if the Rays win this one, but I'm not gonna hold my breath.
Sunday: (tba) vs. Justin Verlander
Verlander is a hard-throwing strikeout machine who needs no introduction. He's the kind of pitcher who's capable of killing Rays hitters, but they're also capable of hitting hard-thrown stuff. The Rays' pitcher TBA is probably Niemann (at least, it's Niemann's spot and I'd be shocked if someone else took it), so I actually like their chances of winning this one.
Monday: James Shields vs Jarrod Washburn
Washburn is a flyball pitcher, so it's no surprise he's struggled since coming over from flyball-friendly Safeco Field. That said, in April Washburn beat the Rays soundly, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks over seven innings of work (with a season-best nine strikeouts to boot). Shields has struggled at times with his stuff and his command, but his poor win-loss record this year is mostly due to the lack of offensive support his teammates have given. If Shields has a good game, the Rays ought to be able to at least outlast Washburn and get into the soft underbelly of the Tigers relief corps.