Rays-Tigers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 03, 2013
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Thanks to a decision by Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, the pitcher that has been toughest to hit in baseball will get a chance to face the hitter with the best average. Matt Moore will try to improve to 9-0 as he faces Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers in Tuesday night's opener of a three-game set at Comerica Park. Maddon could have used Moore on Sunday in Cleveland after the left-hander was limited to one 11-pitch inning Friday before that outing was cut short due to rain in a 9-2 victory over the Indians. The manager chose to start the budding star Tuesday instead, creating this enticing matchup. "But there's the off day (Monday), so why really push it?" Maddon told the Rays' official website. Moore (8-0, 2.18 ERA) is limiting hitters to a .178 average for the best mark in baseball, while reigning AL MVP Cabrera leads the majors with a .367 average and 65 RBIs. The only time these two met was April 10, 2012. Cabrera lined out once and walked twice as Moore gave up two runs over 6 2-3 innings and did not get a decision in a 5-2 loss in his only career outing versus Detroit. The Tigers (30-25) have lost seven of 12 games when opponents start left-handers, although Cabrera is hitting .417 against them and Jhonny Peralta .412 for the AL's best marks. Prince Fielder is a .359 hitter versus left-handers and 0 for 2 against Moore. Strangely, Detroit is searching for offense after losing five of six. Outside of Saturday's 10-3 victory in Baltimore, the Tigers have scored 10 runs in that span. While Detroit averages 5.2 runs to lead the majors, Tampa Bay (31-25) is not far behind at 5.0. The Rays have been even hotter with a major league-best 6.1 runs per game since May 17 while winning 11 of 16. "One through nine, we feel pretty good about scoring runs right now," Maddon said. While top hitters James Loney and Evan Longoria are both batting lower than .255 in this stretch, Matt Joyce is hitting .340 and Kelly Johnson .321 with that duo combining for 28 RBIs over the last 16 games. "I think there's plenty of talent and potential, but it's nice to see when guys come together as a team and start finding that groove," Johnson said. Anibal Sanchez (5-5, 2.79), 4-1 with a 1.70 ERA in five home starts, will be tasked with slowing down the Rays. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 4.78 ERA in four career starts against them, although Johnson is 5 for 26 against him. Sanchez had yielded one run over 15 innings before Pittsburgh scored four times off him in the seventh inning Wednesday in a 5-3 loss. He was charged with five runs total. "I think I missed some pitches and they hit them," said Sanchez, limiting hitters to a .168 average at Comerica Park. "I take responsibility, that's part of the game." Detroit is 10-3 against Tampa Bay over the last two seasons, with Cabrera hitting .364 with 11 walks.
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