Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello goes for his seventh consecutive victory while Rangers rookie starter Nick Martinez seeks his first Major League win when they face off on Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park. This is the Tigers' 20th annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game.
Porcello was supposed to start Thursday, but was pushed back a couple of extra days because of some soreness in his left side. The Tigers, however, expect him to be ready.
"I haven't talked to him [Friday]," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He felt pretty good yesterday. I'll talk to him at some point later today."
With Porcello off to a great start, the Tigers' rotation was 21-10 with a 3.19 ERA through the first 43 games. That was the second lowest ERA for a rotation in the American League.
"It's been the starting pitching more than anything," Ausmus said. "Starting pitching is what's kind of been the glue to the success we've had."
Porcello is 3-3 with a 6.59 ERA in six career starts against the Rangers. Alex Rios has three home runs in 38 career at-bats against Porcello, the most by any right-handed hitter.
Martinez is making his fourth start and second since taking over for Martin Perez in the rotation. He has a 3.38 ERA as a starter without a decision. He has twice left the game with the Rangers leading only to have the bullpen let the lead get away.
"Whatever happens, happens," Martinez said. "I'm not concerned about getting myself a win or a loss. I'm just trying to get the team a win."
Martinez went five innings and 84 pitches in his last start against the Blue Jays, allowing one run on four hits with three walks and three strikeouts. It was his first start since April 22 against Oakland. He made five relief appearances in between those two starts, but should be stretched out sufficiently for this game.
"I think I'm ready to go," Martinez said. "If I can go seven, I'll go seven. I just need to make pitches. You've got to really execute your pitches against this lineup."
Overall, Martinez has a 2.28 ERA, the fourth lowest among 13 Major League rookie pitchers with at least 25 innings. The lowest ERA ever by a Rangers rookie pitcher with at least 100 innings pitched is Steve Comer with a 2.30 ERA in 1978.
Rangers: Odor must handle second base
Rougned Odor was supposed to be a temporary solution at second base until Jurickson Profar came off the disabled list in June. But Profar has reinjured the torn muscle in his right shoulder and could be out for another three months.
Odor will have to hold down second base with the help of Luis Sardinas. A left-handed hitter, Odor was hitting .179 through his first 10 games. But the Rangers, beginning Friday, are in a stretch of 10 straight games facing right-handed starting pitchers.
"I played in Spring Training in big league camp so I know a little bit," Odor said. "That's why I don't feel pressure. I've been around these guys. The pitchers … they throw better pitches and are more in the zone. In the Minor Leagues, you see a lot of balls in the dirt. Here everything is close to the zone. But it's the same baseball."
Tigers: Negro Leagues honored
Saturday marks the 20th annual Negro Leagues Tribute Game with the Tigers wearing the uniforms of the Detroit Stars. The Rangers will wear the uniforms of the Fort Worth Black Panthers.
Ten former Negro Leagues stars will be honored in pregame ceremonies. The Tigers will honor former Negro Leagues players, and Gene Johnson and Frank Crosson will be honored with a moment of silence. Former Negro Leagues player Ron Teasley will throw out the first pitch.
The Stars were charter members in 1920 in the Negro National League and remained until the league folded in 1931. Their teams in that period included outfielder Turkey Stearnes and pitcher Andy Cooper. Both are in the Hall of Fame. Manager Elwood "Bingo" DeMoss led them to their only playoff berth in 1930.
• Rangers manager Ron Washington is experimenting with Leonys Martin in the leadoff spot again, but is not committing to it long-term. With Prince Fielder out, Washington is trying to fortify the middle of the lineup by moving Shin-Soo Choo to the No. 3 spot.
• The Tigers are 12-7 in day games while the Rangers are 8-5.
• The Tigers have added right-handed reliever Corey Knebel to their bullpen, sending Robbie Ray to Triple-A Toledo.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.