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News » Rays-Tigers Preview 2008-09-28

Rays-Tigers Preview 2008-09-28

Rays-Tigers Preview 2008-09-28
Already assured of the best regular season in the franchise's 11-year existence, the last thing the Tampa Bay Rays want is a losing streak heading into their historic playoff run.

The Rays try to enter the postseason with a victory, hoping to salvage the finale of their four-game road series with the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.

It's already been a milestone year for Tampa Bay (96-85), which clinched its first postseason berth on Sept. 20, then added another accomplishment by securing the AL East title when Boston lost to the New York Yankees on Friday. It was the first time a club other than Boston and New York won the division since Baltimore in 1997.

However, less than 24 hours after celebrating that accolade, Tampa Bay suffered a 4-3 loss to Detroit (74-86). The Rays completed a three-game home sweep of the Tigers at the start of August, but have dropped all three contests of the current series against them.

"We wanted to win (Saturday) - there's never a game where you feel good walking back after a loss - but clinching meant that I could manage this more like a spring-training game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Among Madden's decisions, starters B.J. Upton, Akinori Iwamura and Carlos Pena were rested, while starter Matt Garza came out after five innings and 74 pitches.

Ben Zobrist homered and had three of his team's four hits, while Rocco Baldelli drove in two runs for Tampa Bay, which hasn't endured a four-game sweep since July 10-13 in Cleveland.

To avoid that, the Rays hand the ball to James Shields (14-8, 3.57 ERA), who has won his last three decisions, compiling a 2.72 ERA over that five-start stretch.

He was effective on Tuesday, allowing two runs and striking out eight over seven innings of a 5-2 victory at Baltimore in the opener of a doubleheader sweep.

With that outcome, the right-hander established a personal best with 14 wins, matching Rolando Arrojo's single-season franchise record from 1998. A victory in Sunday's finale would help him set a new milestone in wins for the organization.

"From here on out, that's my goal - to be able to get those types of wins," Shields told the Rays' official Web site.

Shields has been stellar in his career versus the Tigers. He is 2-0 with a 2.42 in three starts, but didn't receive a decision against them on Aug. 3 as he surrendered two runs and nine hits in 6 1-3 innings of a 6-5, 10-inning home victory.

Gary Sheffield, one homer shy of 500, is 4-for-13 (.308) lifetime against Shields, but has never homered against the Tampa Bay starter. The slugger will have that opportunity Sunday as Detroit tries for its first four-game winning streak since July 20-23, and its first sweep of Tampa Bay.

Though they will sit out the playoffs this year, the Tigers could factor into the postseason fate of one of their division rivals. Should the AL Central margin that separates leader Minnesota and second-place Chicago remain at a half-game after Sunday's results, Detroit would play the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field in a makeup game on Monday.

First, though, Detroit must focus on playing behind Zach Miner (8-5, 4.26), who lost for the first time in eight starts on Monday, giving up four runs and six hits over six innings of a 6-2 home loss to Kansas City.

The right-hander is 2-1 with a 3.18 ERA in seven career appearances versus the Rays, but was reached for three earned runs and eight hits over 5 1-3 innings in a 5-2 loss in Tampa Bay on Aug. 1.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: September 28, 2008

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