Robbie Ray is scheduled to make his second career start for the Detroit Tigers (21-11) on Sunday as they battle the Minnesota Twins (16-19) in the rubber match of a three-game weekend series. The Tigers took game two of the series 9-3 on Saturday after the Twins won the opener 2-1.
TV: 1:08 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN (Detroit)
Ray dominated the Astros in his Tuesday start, surrendering just one run over 5 1/3 innings. The 22-year-old escaped from an early jam and demonstrated composure beyond his years in striking out two hitters to strand a runner on third base.
Minnesota counters with 30-year-old Samuel Deduno, who made his first start of the season Tuesday after impressing manager Ron Gardenhire in a long relief role. Deduno owns a 3.42 ERA in eight appearances, but is still searching for his first win of the season. Cleveland tagged him for three earned runs in five innings on Tuesday.
Deduno has enjoyed success against many of Detroit's most dangerous weapons, including Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, who each homered on Saturday but own a combined .063 batting average against the Minnesota righty.
The Twins will have to worry about Tigers' third baseman Don Kelly on Sunday as the utility man earns his second start in a row after a two-hit performance on Saturday afternoon. Kelly has great career numbers against Deduno, hitting .500 (3/6) with a home run, double and two RBI. The 34-year-old is off to a blistering start, hitting .355 in 31 at bats in 2014.
Another player to watch Sunday is centerfielder Austin Jackson, who owns a .444 lifetime average against Deduno. Jackson extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single on Saturday and owns the 14th-best average in the AL at .303. The 27-year-old is benefiting from improved plate discipline in 2014, leading Detroit with 15 walks and decreasing his strikeouts from 33 on May 11, 2013 to just 18 at this point in the season.
Detroit was the only team in the American League Central Division to win on Saturday, stretching its lead to five games over the second-place Chicago White Sox and 6.5 games over the charging Cleveland Indians. The Tigers are 1/2 game better than both the Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants in the race for the top record in baseball.
The Tigers have taken advantage of an early schedule packed with home games, posting a 13-7 record in Comerica Park. Detroit has played the fewest number of road games (12) of any team in the country, but travels well with an 8-4 record away from home.
The Tigers will begin a tough nine-game road trip on Monday night against the first-place Baltimore Orioles.