TIGERS (36-82) AT RAYS (71-51)
7:10 p.m. ET; FS-SUN, FS-D, MLB.TV
The Tampa Bay Rays (-1.5) had their road winning streak snapped on Wednesday. They’ll get a gift upon returning home — a weekend series against the floundering Detroit Tigers (+1.5).
The Rays had won nine straight outside of Tropicana Field before falling to San Diego 7-2 on Wednesday. Tampa captured the first five games of a West Coast swing.
“Five and one, you can’t be mad at that,” outfielder Tommy Pham said of his team’s record in the six-game trip, per MLB.com. “We’ve been playing great. Now we have to take it home and play great there.”
They’ll be without the services of outfielder Avisail Garcia, who was placed on the 10-day injured list with an oblique strain. The Rays are hopeful he won’t be out much longer than that. Garcia was removed for a pinch hitter in the seventh inning on Tuesday after feeling some discomfort.
“We cannot have Avi go down for a significant amount of time,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said, per MLB.com. “I’m optimistic that we got it early enough. We didn’t send him back out there, obviously we pinch-hit for him. He felt a little tweak in there. (We) shut him down, and keep our fingers crossed that it’s close to a minimum stay.”
Tampa Bay took two of three from Detroit in early June with the aid of a dominant performance by Charlie Morton, who will start Friday’s game. The veteran right-hander held the Tigers to five hits in seven innings and struck out eight in a 4-0 victory on June 5. In three career starts, he’s 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA against Detroit.
Morton (13-4, 2.90 ERA) gave up four runs in six innings while striking out 10 at Seattle on Saturday. He’s racked up 32 strikeouts while walking just two in his last four starts.
He’ll be opposed by left-hander Daniel Norris, who’s struggled in his last two starts, allowing a combined eight earned runs — including five homers — in 8 2/3 innings.
Norris lasted just three innings while throwing 80 pitches in a 10-2 loss to Kansas City on Sunday. The Royals took him deep three times as Norris couldn’t command his changeup.
“I tried to change my grip just to see if I could find a comfortable way to throw it, but I couldn’t find it,” Norris told MLB.com. “They just eliminated the pitch and crushed the fastball. I couldn’t get them off it.”
Norris (3-10, 4.94 ERA) has made five career starts against Tampa Bay, posting a 1-2 record and 4.13 ERA, including 01 with a 4.76 ERA in one start this year.
The Tigers are beginning a 10-game road trip, making stops against three playoff contenders. Following the three-game weekend series, they’ll play four games at Houston and three at Minnesota. They have a 19-39 road record, including a 3-14 mark since the All-Star break.
“We’re getting into a hot box here,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The teams we’re playing are pretty good. Tampa, really good pitching, and Houston for four with one of the best teams in the game if not the best, and then up to Minnesota. They’re right there in the race, too.
“This should be fun baseball for (us). These games mean a lot to those teams, and they should mean a lot to us as well. We’re going to see where we need to get to and hopefully, we’ll figure out a way to win some of them.”
–Field Level Media