The first time the Rays opened a season 3-0 in 2002, they used a sweep of the Tigers to get off to their hot start. If Tampa Bay can knock off Detroit in today's opener of a three-game series, it will have its best start in team history.
The Rays turn to baseball's top prospect today in Matt Moore in a matchup with the also-undefeated Tigers.
Tampa Bay begins a 10-game road trip after sweeping the rival New York Yankees over the weekend. The Rays capped that set with a 3-0 win on Sunday, with reigning American League Rookie of the Year Jeremy Hellickson falling one out shy of his second-career shutout.
Hellickson was credited with 8 2/3 scoreless innings of three-hit ball on his 25th birthday before Fernando Rodney logged the final out for his second save of the season.
"It's a good birthday present," joked Hellickson after the victory. "I just felt really good out there. I commanded the strike zone and made good pitches when I needed to."
Carlos Pena continued his hot homecoming to Tampa Bay, finishing 2-for-4 with a solo home run, while Jeff Keppinger also had two hits and a solo blast.
The Rays turn to another young starter in the hopes of their first 4-0 start, with the 22-year-old Moore set to face the Tigers for the first time.
After dominating the minors last season, Moore made his major league debut in September with the Rays and went 1-0 with a 2.89 earned run average in three appearances and one start. He also struck out 15 over 9 1/3 innings and then picked up a victory in Tampa Bay's Game 1 victory over Texas in the ALDS.
The left-hander was excellent with seven scoreless innings, working around two hits and a pair of walks while striking out six. Moore's now ready to kick off his first full season in the majors.
"I'm excited," Moore said. "My arm feels good. My last couple of outings, I had a lot better feel for all my stuff, so I'm feeling pretty confident."
The 3-0 Tigers will start Rick Porcello, who at 23 years old is entering his fourth big league season. He matched a career high in wins last season by going 14-9 with a 4.75 ERA in 31 starts while striking out a career-high 104 batters.
The right-hander was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four starts this spring and 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA in two career starts versus the Rays.
The Tigers put together a sweep of the Red Sox for their undefeated start and won a wild 13-12 decision over Boston on Sunday in 11 innings. After Miguel Cabrera launched a game-tying three-run homer in the ninth inning to force extra innings, Alex Avila laced a game-winning two-run homer in the 11th.
Cabrera ended with three hits, five RBI and three runs scored for the defending AL Central champs, who are off to their best start since beginning 2006 with five straight wins.
"We have the capability of scoring three, four, five runs in an inning really quickly," Avila said. "We never feel like we're out of a game."
The Tigers won six of seven versus the Rays last season, outscoring Tampa Bay 15-10 over a three-game sweep in Detroit.