Tigers-Rays Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated June 28, 2012
Tampa Bay Rays starter James Shields said the only bad pitch in his last outing turned into a three-run homer. The three-run homer Max Scherzer surrendered the last time he took the mound was the least of his concerns. Shields will try to help the Rays avoid a season high-tying fourth consecutive loss in Thursday's four-game series opener in St. Petersburg, where Scherzer gets the ball a week after his younger brother's death. Since opening the season 5-0, Shields (7-4, 3.99 ERA) has posted a 4.69 ERA over his last nine outings. He allowed five runs and two homers in five innings of Saturday's 7-6 loss at Philadelphia. "I really made one bad, bad pitch (Saturday) - and that was to (Juan) Pierre (on his three-run homer)," Shields told the Rays' official website. "... I've got to do a better job of minimizing the damage." Losers of six of eight, the Rays (40-35) could use another strong start by Shields against the Tigers - he improved to 5-0 against them in eight starts after throwing eight innings of two-run ball in a 4-2 win at Detroit on April 11 - after getting swept by Kansas City to cap a 3-6 road trip. "It's a tough way to end the road trip,'' right fielder Ben Zobrist said following Wednesday's 5-4 defeat. "... We couldn't get anything going (scoring just six runs in the series).'' Returning home for 17 of their next 21 games is no guarantee the Rays will bounce back. Since opening the season 13-1 at Tropicana Field, manager Joe Maddon's club has lost 14 of 22 in St. Petersburg. After dropping two of three at Texas, the Tigers (36-39) visit the Rays for the first time since taking three of four last Aug. 22-25. Detroit's only loss in that series came with Scherzer on the hill for a 3-2, 10-inning defeat Aug. 24. Scherzer (6-5, 5.12) will only be with the Tigers for the opener of this set, as he's scheduled to fly back to his home in St. Louis on Friday for a Sunday memorial service for his brother. Two days after his brother passed away, Scherzer struck out seven in six innings of Saturday's 4-1 loss at Pittsburgh. The only runs off the right-hander came on Andrew McCutchen's three-run homer. "It was best for my family, it was best for everybody involved, for me to go ahead and make that start on Saturday," Scherzer told the Tigers' official website. "It gave us a chance to get out of the house. It gave us a chance to put a smile on everybody's face, and just a chance to have something we'd love and laugh about, and that's baseball." Scherzer may not need his best stuff, given the way teammates Jhonny Peralta and Miguel Cabrera have hit Shields. Peralta is 9 for 19 with three homers off the Rays right-hander, while Cabrera is 10 for 22. "Their lineup's good," Shields told the Rays' official website. "They can just flat out hit." The Rays batted .229 and totaled six runs in the sweep at the hands of the Royals. They may benefit from the return of Luke Scott, who is expected to be available Thursday following a stint on the disabled list with back spasms. Scott's .358 batting average in 21 games against Detroit is his best against any AL opponent. Zobrist is hitless in seven at-bats against Scherzer, but he's swinging one of the hottest bats on the Rays, batting .417 (10 for 24) over his last seven games.
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