Jackson will try to help the Tigers record their first road sweep of the Rays when he faces his former team for the first time Sunday.
Jackson went 5-15 in 2007, but broke through with a career-high 14 wins last season for the Rays, who went on to capture their first AL pennant. However, Tampa Bay traded the right-hander to the Tigers on Dec. 11 for outfielder Matt Joyce(notes).
Jackson (11-6, 3.09 ERA), who turns 26 on Wednesday, has become a solid No. 2 starter behind Justin Verlander(notes), ranking fourth in the AL in ERA. He’s won four times in his last six starts despite the fact he hasn’t been particularly sharp of late, posting a 5.60 ERA in his last five outings but benefiting from an average of 7.6 runs in support during that span.
He has gave up four runs and nine hits in five innings Tuesday night, but was backed by eight runs and got credit for an 8-5 win over visiting Cleveland.
The Tigers (74-61) have continued to hit well since, and rallied for their fifth straight victory Saturday night at Tropicana Field. Detroit trailed by three heading into the seventh, but Alex Avila’s(notes) two-run homer sparked the team to five runs over the final two innings and an 8-6 win.
“That’s how you win games in the playoffs,” Avila said. “When you get everybody contributing, you can’t ask for anything better than that.”
Marcus Thames’(notes) pinch-hit single drove in the go-ahead run and kept the Tigers’ AL Central lead over Minnesota at six games. They’re averaging 5.6 runs during their winning streak, and hitting .319 with runners in scoring position while winning nine of 12.
The Rays (72-63), meanwhile, have dropped seven of 10 to fall six games behind Boston for the wild card. Tampa Bay is trying to avoid dropping four straight at home for the first time since a five-game skid June 25-July 12, 2007.
The Rays will attempt to end their slide with what they hope is the first of many strong outings from Wade Davis(notes), the team’s third-round draft pick in 2004 and minor league pitcher of the year in 2007, who is set to make his major league debut.
“I’m eager to get out there and can’t wait for it,” Davis told Tampa Bay’s official Web site. “My main goal is to stay relaxed and stay within myself. And if I can do that, everything should be okay.”
The right-hander, who turns 24 on Monday, was 10-8 with a 3.40 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 158 2-3 innings at Triple-A Durham this season.
The Tigers are 4-2 in the season series with the Rays.