It will be up to Rick Porcello to cool off the Rays in Sunday's series finale at Comerica Park, but the Detroit right-hander will have to do it against David Price, who says he is pitching the best baseball of his career.
Porcello (11-4, 3.12 ERA) has been on fire lately as well -- he has pitched back-to-back complete-game shutouts, against the Rangers and A's, and will have a chance for his third straight on Sunday. Against the A's, Porcello rode his sinker to 17 ground-ball outs in a dominating 95-pitch effort.
"Sometimes I'm getting into my rhythm so hard that I don't even notice it falling into place," Porcello said of the pitch. "You just start getting outs and you want to keep going with that. Sometimes it comes at different times. Sometimes it's there right away, sometimes it comes later.
"I got a lot of quick outs against Oakland and was able to finish it. I only threw 95 pitches so it wasn't like I even tested at that 105-110 pitch mark. In Texas, I just felt good."
Price and the Rays have also been hot. Tampa Bay, though still in last place in the American League East, is 8-2 on its current road trip, and has taken two of the first three games in the series from the AL Central-leading Tigers.
Price (7-7, 3.50 ERA) leads the Major Leagues in strikeouts with 153 and has struck out 63 batters in his last six starts, and his ERA has been steadily dropping since the end of May.
"I feel like I am the most complete pitcher that I have ever been, you know, right now," Price said. "And that's cool. I definitely enjoy being able to say that, because it's tough to do. It's an extremely hard game, hitters are very good, and to be able to go out there right now with the confidence I have in all of my pitches in any count to any hitter -- it makes you feel better on the mound."
Tigers: V-Mart out with irritation of sore back
Victor Martinez's return to the Tigers' lineup lasted just a game and a half. His absence this time could linger into next week.
One night after homering in his return from a sore back, Martinez left Friday's game against the Rays after three at-bats when he aggravated the injury. The soreness is centered on his right side, he said, and originated from a swing he took last Sunday in Houston.
With a day off on Monday, Martinez could take three days of rest before returning for Tuesday's series opener against the Dodgers.
Rays: Escobar heads back to Florida to prep for return
Yunel Escobar headed back to the Tampa Bay area on Saturday to prepare for his return to the Rays' lineup.
Escobar, who was in the clubhouse briefly before Saturday afternoon's game against the Tigers, has not played in a game since June 24, when he left the Rays' 6-5 loss to the Pirates because of a sore shoulder.
Escobar is slated to play shortstop in a Gulf Coast League game on Monday, then he will DH for Class A Charlotte on Tuesday before returning to shortstop on Wednesday.
"He threw with [head athletic trainer] Ronnie [Porterfield] today, did a nice job," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Ronnie said he threw from a good distance without any hesitation. I met with [Escobar] briefly, and he's really, really eager to get back."
Escobar went on the disabled list on June 30, which is retroactive to June 25, meaning the Rays shortstop can come off the DL on July 8.
• With the 2014 MLB All-Star selection show coming Sunday evening, Detroit's Miguel Cabrera is on pace to start for the AL at first base. Other possible selections from the Tigers include second baseman Ian Kinsler, designated hitter Victor Martinez and starting pitchers Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello.
• Rays manager Joe Maddon said he has had "zero" conversations with Red Sox manager John Farrell, who will be the AL manager at the All-Star Game. But he doesn't think that will hinder the prospects for David Price or Jake McGee, the Rays' two best candidates, to make the team.
David Adler is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.