Tigers-Rays Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Rays were without Evan Longoria on Saturday, but they didn't need much offense for a win over the Detroit Tigers.

If Jeremy Hellickson's last start was any indication, they also might not need a lot Sunday as he faces the visiting Tigers in the series finale.

Longoria, the team leader in home runs (17) and RBIs (47), missed a game for the first time this season Saturday, but Yunel Escobar singled home the winning run in the 10th inning in a 4-3 victory for Tampa Bay (42-39).

Longoria is dealing with a sore right foot, which caused him to leave Friday's 6-3 Tigers win. He's also expected to miss Sunday's game but could return Monday at Houston.

"I've been battling with the plantar stuff for the better part of a month now," he said. "I really don't have a definite prognosis. I know that at least for now, I'm not going to go on the DL, which is good, and I'm pretty optimistic about the way I feel today."

Three of the six quality starts this season for Hellickson (6-3, 5.11 ERA) have come in his last four games. He allowed one hit in a start for the second time in his career Monday, throwing seven shutout innings in a 4-1 victory over Toronto.

Hellickson, 4-1 in his last five starts, matched a season high with four walks but threw only 96 pitches.

"He had that (satisfied look) and I really believe that you could see him gain momentum," manager Joe Maddon told the team's official website. "Out of all the starts this year that he may have pitched well, tonight was the game that I think may have righted the ship for him."

The right-hander owns a 1-3 record in four career starts versus the Tigers (43-36) despite a 1.96 ERA. He last faced them a year ago Sunday, leaving after 2 2-3 innings when he was struck in the leg by a liner from Prince Fielder, though he suffered no serious injuries.

Hellickson still has one of the AL's highest ERAs among qualifying starters, as does the man he'll face Sunday - Rick Porcello (4-5, 5.27).

The Detroit right-hander is coming off back-to-back losses, posting an 11.32 ERA. He was charged with seven runs and matched a season high with 10 hits allowed in 4 1-3 innings of a 14-8 loss to the Angels on Tuesday.

"I was just off," said Porcello, 2-1 with a 2.33 ERA in four starts against the Tigers.

This game could also see a hangover from a tension-filled exchange late in Saturday's contest. Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 14 games, but he also yelled toward the Rays' dugout after striking out against Fernando Rodney in the 10th. The at-bat saw Rodney use an up-and-in pitch against Cabrera, who homered twice against Tampa Bay a day earlier.

Rodney said he was simply trying to back Cabrera off the plate a bit. Cabrera didn't speak about the incident, but manager Jim Leyland didn't shy away from commenting.

"I don't like it up there, and we will not tolerate that," he said. "Throwing in that area is not acceptable, and somebody pays the price for that throughout baseball. That's just the way baseball is."

Tampa Bay's James Loney is batting .415 during a 10-game hitting streak after going 3 for 5 on Saturday.

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