(SportsNetwork.com) - Max Scherzer has been the big-league equivalent of poison to the Tampa Bays Rays in recent months.
The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner gets another crack at one of his favorite opponents on Thursday night, when the Detroit Tigers host the Rays to begin a four-game series at Comerica Park.
He's won three in a row against Tampa Bay and will get the Rays this time while trying to build on a stretch that's seen him turn in two consecutive strong starts against other foes.
Scherzer was battered for 10 runs in just four-plus innings of an 11-4 loss to Kansas City on June 17, but he's since beaten Cleveland with six innings of one-run ball and downed Houston with seven innings of two-run ball in his most recent appearance on Saturday.
"That's what we were hoping to see from Max Scherzer on a fairly regular basis," manager Brad Ausmus said.
In the aforementioned three defeats of Tampa Bay, Scherzer has struck out 25 batters while allowing only 12 hits in 20 innings.
Still, the Rays enter the series on a five-game win streak that's showed signs they might be capable of a second-half run in a jumbled AL East Division. Tampa Bay is last in the five-team loop, but just 9 1/2 games behind first- place Toronto.
"We're getting a different bus driver on a daily basis, that's kind of neat," manager Joe Maddon said. "That's who we have to be. We're not necessarily built around one guy. We're built as group. Everybody's got to do their job."
Veteran lefty Erik Bedard gets the series-opening start for the Rays after going seven-plus innings on Saturday in a 5-4 defeat of Baltimore.
It was Bedard's longest appearance of the season and Tampa Bay is 4-1 in his last five starts.
He's not started against Detroit since 2011. His last meeting with them came in a relief role in 2013, when he allowed a run in 3 1/3 innings while pitching for Houston.
On Wednesday in New York, Sean Rodriguez drove in three runs and struck the go-ahead two-run homer in the sixth inning, as the Rays posted a 6-3 victory over the Yankees to sweep a three-game series.
James Loney and Brandon Guyer also knocked in runs for the Rays.
Jake Odorizzi (4-7) allowed three runs on eight hits with four strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings for the win. Brad Boxberger came up with a scoreless final frame for his first save.
In Detroit, Torii Hunter went 3-for-4 with three RBI to lead the Tigers to a three-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics with a 9-3 rout.
Austin Jackson broke out of an 0-for-15 slump with three hits, two runs and an RBI, and Miguel Cabrera knocked in a pair for Detroit.
Detroit starter Justin Verlander earned a win in his first July start, something he couldn't do in five June outings. The right-hander went 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA over five starts in June, but went six innings and allowed just two runs on nine hits with four strikeouts. He didn't allow a walk for the first time all season.
The Tigers and Rays split six meetings a season ago.