Home run-leading Rays rolling into town

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
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Detroit — The Tigers on Thursday enjoyed their first home off day of the season. It marked the end of a stretch of 29 games in 30 days.

But the rest period will be short.

The Tigers will put their four-game winning streak on the line against one of the hotter teams in baseball this weekend. The Tampa Bay Rays come in off a three-game road sweep of the Blue Jays.

Built around pitching and defense, the Rays offense unleashed 31 runs, 44 hits, 81 total bases and 20 extra-base hits against the Blue Jays — outscoring them, 31-7. The Rays lead baseball with 58 home runs.

“We’re capable of having a very good offense,” Rays manager Kevin Cash told the Tampa Bay Times.

“Is it sustainable to go out and do what we just did over a three-game series? That’s probably not the most realistic approach. We’re still built around our pitching. But it was nice.”

It was, as Logan Morrison said, contagious.

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“For the most part, it’s having the confidence that he got a hit, I can get a hit, whatever it may be,” Morrison told the Times. “We’re in a good place right now, and we’re looking to keep it rolling in Detroit.”

The Tigers are in a good place, too, finally, after sweeping the Twins and moving past the stretch of 11 losses in 12 games.

“It’s nice to have an off day,” said Ian Kinsler, whose streak of homering in four straight games was interrupted.

“We just have to remember where we are as a team and make sure we don’t lose the energy we have.”

The Tigers are going to face three of the Rays top pitchers — right-hander Matt Andriese, who is 2-0 and has allowed just one run in two starts — former Tigers lefty Drew Smiley and ace right-hander Chris Archer.

Archer has struggled this season, but he’s coming off a solid six-inning, seven-strikeout effort against the Jays. He will face Jordan Zimmermann on Sunday.

“You don’t want the off day to affect what we have going,” Kinsler said.

“Going into Friday, you want to make sure everyone remembers what we’re doing and how we felt in here (after the sweep Wednesday) and bring that on Friday.”

On deck: Rays

Series: Three games at Comerica Park

First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Friday; 4:10 p.m. Saturday; 1:10 p.m. Sunday

TV/radio: FSD/97.1

Probables: Friday — RHP Matt Andriese (2-0, 0.56), Rays vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-4, 5.91); Saturday — LHP Drew Smiley (2-4, 3.44) vs. RHP Michael Fulmer (2-1, 6.52); Sunday — RHP Chris Archer (3-4, 4.38) vs. RHP Jordan Zimmermann (6-2, 2.45).

Scouting report

Andriese, Rays: In the span of six days, he beat the Angels and A’s, allowing a run and six hits with eight strikeouts in 16 innings. He’s the type of righty who has bedeviled the Tigers’ right-handed hitters for two seasons: a well-spotted fastball (90-93) with a plus mix of curveball, cutter and change-up.

Sanchez, Tigers: His enigmatic season continues. He’s been brilliant for the bulk of his three starts, only to be beaten by one blowup inning. He’d allowed two hits to the Orioles through five innings in his last start, and got blitzed for three runs in four batters in the sixth. Before that, three hits allowed through five against the Nats, then, boom, two-run homer by Daniel Murphy in the sixth. Before that, five no-hit innings sandwiched around a four-run fourth.

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