The series, pitting two potential playoff teams against each other, opens on Tuesday afternoon at Comerica Park in Detroit. The visiting Rays made a statement by sweeping the defending AL East champion Yankees over the weekend, while the Tigers did the same to the Red Sox in Detroit. Monday was an off-day for both teams.
Tuesday's game will feature two young hurlers, most notably Matt Moore, the 22-year-old left-handed phenom who rose quickly through the Rays' farm system as MLB.com's top prospect.
"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."
Rick Porcello, at 23, knows a thing or two himself about working in a big league rotation at a young age. The Tigers right-hander is 38-30 in his career with Detroit since debuting in 2009.
The Tigers won six of the seven meetings between the two clubs last year, outscoring the Rays, 26-16, in the season series.
"I thought that defined our whole year," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of the August set at St. Petersburg in which Detroit won three of four. "I thought that won the Central Division for us. We didn't score many runs, but we won three out of four, I believe.
"That can be a hornets' nest. I said it all along, I think that was the series that turned our season around."
Moore said he's been able to make adjustments from the short time he spent in the Majors last season -- going 1-0 with a 2.89 ERA in 9 1/3 innings -- and manager Joe Maddon expects the lefty to be composed against Detroit's fierce lineup.
"I expect Matt to go out and pitch well," Maddon said. "He's not going to back down from anybody. His stuff pitches against the best, regardless. It'll be an interesting first start. They're pretty good. I don't think that's going to bother him."
Tigers: Power at the core
Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera -- who combined for five homers in Detroit's season-opening series against the Red Sox -- are among the Major League leaders in home runs and RBIs since the start of the 2006 season. Entering Sunday, Fielder was third in the big leagues with 230 homers during that time, while Cabrera was tied for sixth with 201.
Cabrera was third in the Majors with 697 RBIs in that span, while Fielder was sixth with 649. They combined for five hits (one homer), five runs and five RBIs on Sunday.
Gerald Laird is tentatively scheduled to make his first start of the season behind the plate on Tuesday, with Alex Avila likely getting a day off after catching all three games of the Boston series.
Rays: Pena swinging hot bat
Carlos Pena's return to Tampa Bay this year has been a triumphant one thus far, as the slugger is hitting .500 (6-for-12) with two homers and seven RBIs entering Tuesday. Pena, who spent last season with the Cubs after playing the previous four seasons for the Rays, homered in the series opener and finale, and he logged five RBIs on Opening Day.
Moore struck out 15 in 9 1/3 innings last season, walking just three.
The Rays are 3-0 for just the second time in franchise history. The first was in 2002, though the club went on to lose a club-record 106 games that season.
Porcello was 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA in four Grapefruit League starts for Detroit. He allowed three earned runs in 17 innings.
The Tigers are 156-90 at Comerica Park since the beginning of the 2009 season, a .634 winning percentage. Detroit trails only the Yankees (.663) in winning percentage among Major League clubs during that span.