(SportsNetwork.com) - The baseball pride of the Motor City has been hitting on all cylinders.
Left-hander Drew Smyly gets a chance to bounce back from the team's only recent subpar mound outing when the Detroit Tigers host the Tampa Bay Rays in game two of a four-game weekend series at Comerica Park.
The Tigers have won five in a row at home and 12 of 14 overall while pulling out to a five-game lead over the Kansas City Royals in the American League Central. The offense has combined to hit .296 with 20 home runs in that 14- game stretch, while Detroit's starters have contributed a 9-1 record and a 2.16 earned run average in 14 games -- with that ERA number shrinking to 1.46 in the five-game win streak.
Max Scherzer threw eight strong innings of two-hit ball in Thursday's opener and will hand the ball over to Smyly, who was dinged for four runs on eight hits in just 2 1/3 innings of a 6-4 loss at Houston on Sunday. It was a drastic departure for Smyly, who'd compiled a 1.44 ERA in his previous four outings.
The Tigers said after the game that he was suffering from an upper respiratory infection.
In five overall appearances against the Rays -- including two starts -- Smyly is 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA.
Tampa Bay had won five straight before Thursday's game and will send right- hander Alex Cobb to the mound while trying to avoid a third straight loss at Comerica.
Cobb was dinged for four runs in five innings of his last start on Sunday against Baltimore, but nonetheless emerged with a 12-7 victory.
Oddly, in his initial 10 starts of 2014, the Rays had managed just 12 runs.
He's 0-1 in three lifetime starts against Detroit with a respectable 2.41 ERA, but has received just three runs of support in the last two combined.
On Thursday, Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4 and scored four runs as the Tigers put on an offensive performance in an 8-1 win.
Ian Kinsler and Victor Martinez each hit a two-run home run in the first inning, and Torii Hunter added a solo shot in the frame for the Tigers, who pounded out 15 hits on the way to their fourth straight win.
Scherzer (10-3) allowed one batter to reach base over his final seven frames.
Evan Longoria drove in the only run of the game for the Rays, who had a five- game winning streak snapped.
Erik Bedard (4-6) was banged up for six runs on eight hits in just two innings of work.
The Tigers and Rays split six meetings a season ago.