Tigers hope to stay hot vs. Rays

The Tigers are six years removed from their last 5-0 start. With reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander set to take the hill this afternoon, Detroit has to like its chances at matching that start.

Verlander takes another shot at his first win of the season as the Tigers play the middle contest of a three-game series with the Tampa Bay Rays, who are coming off their first loss of 2012.

Coming off a sweep of the Red Sox, the Tigers broke through late on Tuesday to claim a 5-2 win over the visiting Rays in the opener, giving them a win in their first four games of a season for the first time since going 5-0 in 2006.

Austin Jackson homered, while Prince Fielder followed a Miguel Cabrera leadoff double with a run-scoring single in the eighth inning, while Jhonny Peralta and Gerald Laird also drove in a run in the frame.

Phil Coke tossed a scoreless eighth for the win and Jose Valverde picked up his first save of the season with a perfect ninth. Rick Porcello allowed two runs on seven hits with four strikeouts over a seven-inning start.

"We just play the games," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said of his team's hot start. "We don't get caught up in anything except for tomorrow's game."

The Tigers have won eight of their last nine meetings with the Rays dating back to Aug. 11, 2010.

Tampa Bay began the season with a three-game sweep of the Yankees and was in search of its best start in franchise history. Instead, Jake McGee allowed two runs in one-third of an inning to suffer the loss in the opener of a 10-game road trip.

Desmond Jennings went 2-for-4 with and RBI in the setback and rookie Matt Moore surrendered two runs on four hits and five walks in 6 2/3 innings.

"They're pretty good," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "So they got us in the end. But I thought it was a well-played game."

It could be another well-pitched game on the Tigers' end today with Verlander set to get the start. The right-hander went 24-5 with a 2.40 earned run average and 250 strikeouts during his award-laden 2011 campaign, then began this season on Friday versus Boston with eight scoreless innings of two-hit ball with a walk and seven strikeouts.

In line to get the win, Verlander instead received a no-decision after Valverde's first blown save since the 2010 season. He had gone a perfect 49- for-49 in 2011.

The 29-year-old Verlander has racked up a 6-1 record and 3.60 ERA in 10 career starts versus the Rays.

Though James Shields also had a solid 2011 season, his new year didn't get off to as a good a start as Verlander. The Tampa Bay righty took a no-decision versus the Yankees on Friday, lasting five innings and getting charged with six runs on nine hits and three walks.

Shields won 16 games a season ago with 11 complete games and four shutouts. The 30-year-old has never lost to the Tigers, going 4-0 with a 3.74 ERA in seven starts. That includes a 2-0 mark and 3.00 ERA in three games at Comerica Park.