Drew Smyly makes his major league debut this afternoon when the Detroit Tigers play the rubber match of a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park.
A second round pick of the Tigers in 2010, Smyly was a non-roster invitee at the team's camp this spring, but went on to beat out a handful of other candidates for Detroit's fifth starter job.
The lanky left-hander was 1-0 this spring with a 4.00 ERA in 18 innings. He was roughed up, though, in a minor league tuneup on Saturday, yielding three runs on three hits and two walks while recording just five outs.
Detroit seemed well on the way to a win on Wednesday, but a four-run rally in the ninth inning, which began against the nearly unhittable Justin Verlander and culminated with Ben Zobrist's go-ahead two-run single, gave the Rays a 4-2 victory.
Verlander (0-1) held a 2-0 lead and had allowed just one hit entering the ninth, but singles by Jeff Keppinger and Desmond Jennings put runners at the corners with one down. Keppinger scored on a wild pitch and Evan Longoria tied it with an RBI single, driving the 2011 American League MVP and CY Young Award winner from the game.
The bases were loaded two batters later when Zobrist put Tampa Bay on top with a two-run single up the middle off of Jose Valverde.
Fernando Rodney then retired Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Jhonny Peralta in order to earn his third save of the season. James Shields (1-0) got the win after allowing two runs on six hits over eight innings and the Rays, who swept the Yankees to begin the season, rebounded from Tuesday's 5-2 loss in the opener of this three-game series.
Verlander suffered his first loss in 15 starts dating back to July 15 of last year against the White Sox. He was charged with all four runs on four hits over 8 1/3 innings.
"Verlander was on top of his entire game today," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "It was a great comeback win against a very good opponent."
Cabrera knocked in a run in the first for the Tigers, who were attempting to start the season with five straight wins for the first time since 2006.
Tampa, meanwhile, will hand the ball to righty Jeff Niemann, who will be making his season debut. Niemann was 11-7 last season with 4.06 ERA and went through a stretch of 10 starts without a loss.
"I'm anxious to go out there and get the first one under my belt. Keep on rolling," Niemann said. "They've got some guys in the middle there that can obviously do some damage. And the rest of their hitters are pretty solid. I just have to go out there and make my pitches."
In five appearances against the Tigers Niemann is 1-2 with a 3.48 ERA.
Despite Wednesday's loss, the Tigers have still won eight of their last 10 matchups with the Rays.