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DET@PIT: Scherzer strikes out seven over six innings

When the Tigers and Rays open up a four-game series on Thursday at Tropicana Field, Max Scherzer will take the mound against James Shields. For Scherzer, it will again be about much more than baseball.

Two days after the death of his brother, Scherzer completed six innings of three-hit, three-run ball against the Pirates. The end result was a loss, but on that day, it really wasn't about winning or losing for the 27-year-old.

"It was best for my family, it was best for everybody involved, for me to go ahead and make that start on Saturday," Scherzer said. "It gave us a chance to get out of the house. It gave us a chance to put a smile on everybody's face, and just a chance to have something we'd love and laugh about, and that's baseball."

Scherzer said it was the toughest six innings he's ever experienced.

"I thought it was going to be kind of the back in my mind and competitive spirit was going to take over," he said. "It wasn't like that the other day. For me, it was on the forefront of every single pitch. ... It was the most difficult start I've ever had to make it my life, but it was worth it."

Scherzer is 6-5 with a 5.12 ERA and his 107 strikeouts are tied for the fourth-most in the Majors. He is winless (0-2) in three career starts against the Rays despite a 3.06 ERA. Physically and emotionally, Thursday's start will likely be no easier than his last.

For Shields, it will be his second outing versus Detroit this year. The first came back on April 11, when he squared off against Justin Verlander. He fired eight innings, allowing two runs on six hits, and got the win after the Rays rallied in the ninth inning against the Tigers ace.

"Their lineup's good," Shields said. "They can just flat out hit. You've got to be careful with them, obviously. We've faced them already this season, so we pretty much know what they're all about. It's going to be a tough battle."

Shields is undefeated (5-0) in eight career starts against the Tigers. He owns a 3.51 ERA and is holding opponents to a .270 batting average. Despite the Tigers entering the series under .500, neither Shields nor Rays manager Joe Maddon is underestimating their capabilities.

"They got off to not the best start, but they're real good," Maddon said. "Maybe their defense is probably not what they'd like it to be, but their offense, my goodness."

Tigers: Cabrera, Peralta enjoy success
Miguel Cabrera is 10-for-22 (.455) with four doubles, a home run and three RBIs against Shields in his career. Jhonny Peralta is 9-for-19 (.474) with a double, three home runs and eight RBIs vs. the Rays right-hander.

Prince Fielder doesn't have quite the same track record -- he's 0-for-2 -- but the first baseman is batting .301 with 12 home runs and 50 RBIs. He also has three doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in his past seven games.

"Cabrera and Fielder, with those two guys in the lineup, it's pretty dangerous," Shields said. "You've got to be careful with those guys, but then again you've got to be aggressive and attack them. One through nine, they're pretty good."

One bat the team is still struggling to get going is that of Brennan Boesch. The right fielder had a four-hit game on June 13 at Wrigley Field, but has only five hits since. He is 5-for-62 (.081) in that stretch.

Relief pitcher Al Alburquerque, who has yet to pitch in a game yet after undergoing offseason elbow surgery, is nearing a Minor League rehab assignment. He threw a 35-pitch simulated game Wednesday and is slated to pitch live batting practice.

Rays: Scott among Rays nearing return
Luke Scott (back spasms) wrapped up a two-game rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham on Tuesday and is expected to be activated from the disabled list for Thursday's series opener. He is hitting .220 with nine home runs and 35 RBIs this season.

Jeremy Hellickson (right shoulder fatigue) is slated to start Saturday's game against Detroit. Reliever Joel Peralta will also return following his eight-game suspension for having pine tar in his glove. And Kyle Farnsworth tossed a scoreless inning in Durham on Tuesday.

"I'm looking forward to that moment when we get everybody back more to a normal-looking lineup," Maddon said.

Worth noting
• On Saturday against Detroit, the Rays will host "Turn Back The Clock" night and will wear retro, custom-made 1970s jerseys. Rick Porcello opposes David Price and, following the game, Earth, Wind & Fire will perform on the field.

• The Tigers took two of three from the Rays in a three-game series from April 10-12. They outscored the Rays, 14-8. Detroit has won eight of the last 10 meetings dating to last season.

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