Rays right-hander Roberto Hernandez might have found his groove in his most recent outing, tossing 8 2/3 strong innings against the Marlins on Saturday.
The thing is, he'll be facing the polar opposite of the Marlins on Thursday.
The Rays and Tigers complete a three-game series Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park, with unbeaten right-hander Max Scherzer taking the hill for Detroit. The Tigers have dominated the Rays, winning 13 of the last 17 meetings between the clubs. Detroit also has posted a 2.37 ERA in that span while holding Tampa Bay to four runs or fewer in 14 consecutive games.
Those numbers aren't on the minds of Hernandez and the Rays as they head into the game, however. Instead it's what Hernandez did his last time out, holding the Marlins to one unearned run on three hits.
Although the Tigers undoubtedly pose a different threat, Rays manager John Maddon is hopeful that Hernandez will take the positives out of that start -- solid control and execution of all pitches -- and compete with the poise he displayed that day.
"I like to believe he gained some confidence from that last outing," said Maddon, whose club has won eight of its last 10. "I thought his stuff was really good from the side. Gaining the confidence from that performance can possibly appear in tomorrow's game; we'll see how that works out."
If this season is any indication, no matter the level of Hernandez's confidence or stuff, it might not work out well for the Rays against Scherzer, who has been absolutely dominant.
Scherzer is once again among the league leaders in strikeouts, entering Thursday with 91. And he's one of a handful of unbeaten starters, posting a 7-0 mark and 3.42 ERA. He also pitched eight innings in four of his six May starts, garnering him Tigers Pitcher of the Month honors.
If it wasn't for a blown save in his May finale -- when he fanned 10 Orioles -- he would be 8-0.
Regardless of Scherzer's current run -- and Detroit's success against Tampa Bay -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland is impressed with the Rays.
"It's a pretty versatile lineup," Leyland said. "You know, it really shows you it's tough to match up when they are ultimately hitting lefties better than righties."
Rays: Torres dominant in relief
Left-handed reliever Alex Torres has thrown 10 1/3 scoreless innings in four appearances this season, allowing only one hit, walking three and striking out 12.
• Wednesday's 3-0 victory broke an all-or-nothing trend for the Rays. They scored nine runs on Friday, none on Saturday, 11 on Sunday and one on Tuesday.
Tigers: Fielder on a roll
First baseman Prince Fielder enters Thursday with a 10-game hitting streak, during which he's batting .333. Aside from doing his usual thing, Fielder has continued to provide solid protection for third baseman Miguel Cabrera, going 8-for-10 with a walk in his last 11 plate appearances following a Cabrera walk.
"At the end of the year, those numbers are going to be there. That's what happens with guys who hit balls out of the ballpark," Leyland said. "They go a little stale for about a week or so, and then all of sudden, boom, they hit 'em for four or five days in a row, it seems like."
• The Tigers have won 51 of their last 72 games at Comerica Park since last Independence Day.
• Hernandez is 8-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 20 games (17 starts) against Detroit. Cabrera is a .333 career hitter, with three home runs, against him.
• Tampa Bay's Yunel Escobar is a .423 career hitter with three doubles and a homer against Scherzer.
• Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez is hitting .364 with 17 doubles, eight home runs and 44 RBIs in his career against Tampa Bay.