Alex Cobb hasn't pitched a ton at Comerica Park, but when he has, well, the Tigers probably wished he hadn't. The Rays right-hander has limited Detroit batters to one run over 13 1/3 innings in two starts as a visitor, including 7 2/3 shutout frames last season.
Cobb will try to continue that trend Friday night when he takes the mound against the Tigers opposite left-hander Drew Smyly. The Rays will look to even the four-game series after Detroit took the opener, 8-1, on Thursday night after a five-run first inning. It was the Tigers' 12th win in 14 games.
Cobb will try to halt that run.
"This place is really fun to pitch in just because it's such a big park," Cobb said. "It is a good mound, too."
This Cobb, though, is a little different than the one who shut down Detroit last summer. He has been inconsistent throughout 2014, and especially during June, during which he posted a 5.35 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.
In his most recent start, Cobb -- who owns a 4.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP on the season -- allowed the Orioles' four runs (three earned) in five innings.
"Fastball location's got to get better. With my offspeed playing out of the zone, I have to get more respect out of my fastball. Then I can start getting guys to chase a little bit," Cobb said. "It's a mechanical thing, I'd have to put it in that category. I don't know if it's mechanical because of mental or if it's mechanical because of physical. That's something I'm trying to figure out. It could be that I didn't give enough respect to the fact that I was out for a month [with a strained left oblique]."
Smyly has had a better season overall, posting a 3.57 ERA and 1.36 WHIP. He snapped his streak of four consecutive quality starts his last time out when the Astros reached him for four runs on eight hits in just 2 1/3 innings. The four runs matched the total he had allowed in his previous four starts spanning 25 innings.
The team revealed afterward that Smyly was batting an upper respiratory infection. He's feeling better now -- though not completely healthy -- and got in his regular work between starts.
"He said he's feeling a lot better," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's still got a little bit of a raspy voice, so I don't think it's completely gone, but he said he was feeling OK."
In five careers appearances (two starts) against Tampa, Smyly has allowed four runs in 11 innings while striking out 13.
Rays: Forsythe on a tear
With a top-notch right-hander in the form of Max Scherzer on the mound Thursday, second baseman Logan Forsythe -- a .229/.278/.265 hitter against righties -- took a seat while Cole Figueroa started at second and in the No. 9 hole.
Forsythe and his hot bat, though, could find their way back into the lineup against Smyly, a left-hander. Forsythe is batting .278/.326/.430 against southpaws, and .455 with a 1.148 OPS overall since June 16. He's raised his average from .178 to .253 in that span.
It took a little while, but Forsythe is making the most of his first full Major League season. The Rays acquired him from the Padres in January in a trade that saw hurlers Jesse Hahn and Alex Torres go to San Diego.
Tigers: Krol nearing return
Ian Krol called it a dead arm. The Tigers called it shoulder inflammation. Either way, it's closer and closer to becoming a non-issue for the left-handed reliever, who is scheduled to pitch an inning Friday night for low Class A West Michigan.
Krol will then pitch again Sunday, and if all goes well could come off the disabled list on Tuesday when Detroit hosts the Dodgers for a two-game set.
On the season, his second in the big leagues and first with the Tigers, Krol owns a 4.32 ERA and 1.52 WHIP. He has been on the DL since June 21, a transaction that was preceded by a bout with ineffectiveness. Krol allowed seven runs on eight hits (three homers) in three innings over the course of four games before hitting the DL.
• Before Thursday, the Rays and Tigers had not met since June 2013. The teams split the series 3-3 last season.
• Ausmus said Thursday he's OK with Tigers hitters -- namely Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez -- participating in the Home Run Derby.
"I find it hard to believe that one round of batting practice is going to ruin your swing for the next three months," Ausmus said. "I guess if you advance, it's more."
• Tampa Bay left-hander Cesar Ramos, who threw 53 pitches in 3 1/3 innings of one-run relief on Thursday, could be out for a couple of days -- but not to rest. He's due to take a paternity leave, as his wife, Melanie, "is due any second now," according to Rays manager Joe Maddon.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.