The Rays made a remarkable run to get back to within striking distance in the American League playoff chase, but after blowing a four-run lead en route to an 8-6, extra-innings loss to the Tigers on Tuesday night, Tampa Bay finds itself seven games back in the Wild Card race.
With a 5-0 win over the Yankees last Friday, the Rays became the fourth team in Major League history to get back to the .500 mark after being 18 games under earlier in the season. Since losing, 1-0, to the Cardinals on June 10, and falling to 24-42, the Rays have gone 37-22.
No team in Major League history that had been 18 games below .500 at any point in a season has ever finished with a winning record. Rays starter Jake Odorizzi, who will face the Tigers on Wednesday night, believes the Rays can become the first team to not only accomplish that feat, but to also reach the postseason.
"I don't think we want to focus on the end of September. We want to focus on October and being somewhere like where we were last year," Odorizzi said. "We're not focused on September. We're focused on October, and to get there, we've got to keep winning and keep playing good and leave the rest to everybody else."
Odorizzi has won seven of his last 10 starts, while posting a 2.65 ERA over his last 12, compared to a 5.31 ERA in his first dozen starts of the season. In his last outing, the 24-year-old right-hander allowed two runs on four hits, while walking one and striking out seven over seven innings to beat the Rangers on the road last Thursday. Odorizzi said one key has been that he's learned how to better mix his pitches.
"Early, I was trying to pick my places for how to use [pitches] and I just didn't know how to do it," he said. "It was too much information at once, I guess. But now I feel very confident in what I want to do and how I want to do it."
Odorizzi's counterpart on Wednesday will be right-hander Rick Porcello, who hopes to help the Tigers continue the momentum they gained from Tuesday's come-from-behind victory. Detroit trails a red-hot Kansas City club by two games in the AL Central standings.
Porcello was roughed up for seven runs on 11 hits over 5 2/3 innings the last time he saw the Rays on July 6. But Tigers manager Brad Ausmus isn't concerned about Porcello's recent history against Tampa Bay.
"For him, nothing," Ausmus said about whether Porcello would need to change anything in his approach. "Nothing extraordinary, same preparation. He just had a bad outing that day."
Porcello had posted a 1.23 ERA (three earned runs in 22 innings pitched) over three starts prior to his last outing, when he was hit hard by the Mariners for six runs (five earned) on 10 hits over six innings in a loss last Friday.
Tigers: Verlander feels good after throwing session
Prior to Tuesday's win over the Rays, Justin Verlander threw for the first time since being diagnosed with right shoulder inflammation following his last start on Aug. 11 against the Pirates at PNC Park.
The right-hander threw for 10-15 minutes from a distance of 60 feet in the Tropicana Field outfield.
"Definitely felt a whole lot better," Verlander said. "There wasn't that 'can't get loose' feeling. As far as shoulder joint mobility and getting loose, I felt much better ... [I] worked past the stage where it would've really started bothering me."
Ausmus said that if Verlander felt good on Wednesday, he may throw a bullpen session on Thursday, which would be the prerequisite to having him make his next scheduled start on Saturday at Minnesota.
Rays: Myers could return any day
Wil Myers could return to the Rays' lineup on this homestand. The right fielder, who has been on the disabled list due to a right wrist fracture since June 1, has played in seven rehab games with Triple-A Durham.
"Wil's getting real close," manager Joe Maddon said before Tuesday's loss. "He'll be hatched any day now. We'll wait and see. He's doing well."
• Tigers left fielder Andy Dirks reinjured his left hamstring after an earlier hamstring strain put his rehab from back surgery on hold. He was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Tuesday, and Ausmus doesn't know whether Dirks will be able to return in 2014.
• Miguel Cabrera's next double will be the 270th of his career, which would tie him with Bobby Higginson for 10th place in Tigers history.
• Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings is 5-for-14 (.357) with a double, a home run and three RBIs in his career against Porcello. James Loney is 4-for-10 with a double and an RBI against the right-hander.
Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.