Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland believes he could potentially have five players named to the AL All-Star team.
Not a bad haul for a team that is under .500 and falling well short of expectations.After another mediocre month, the Tigers hope to get their season on track in July, beginning with Sunday's finale of a four-game series with the struggling Tampa Bay Rays.The All-Star teams will be announced prior to Sunday's games, and Leyland thinks Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, Joaquin Benoit, Austin Jackson and Justin Verlander all have a shot at being selected to the Midsummer Classic. While all those players are having All-Star caliber seasons, Detroit (38-40) has been a major disappointment.The Tigers are four games behind AL Central-leading Chicago and haven't been over .500 since May 10, when they were 16-15.The Rays (41-37) have also had a rough go. Thanks to a 6-12 slide, last season's AL wild-card winner is 6 1/2 back AL East-leading New York after sitting atop the division on June 10.One bit of good news for Tampa Bay, however, is Jeremy Hellickson is expected to make his next start despite leaving Saturday's game in the third inning after being hit in the lower right leg by Fielder's liner.The Tigers went on to win 6-2 to take two of the first three games in the series and improve to 9-15 against AL teams since May 16. They haven't taken a series from a non-NL club since sweeping lowly Minnesota from May 25-27.Jackson put Detroit up 4-0 with a three-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday, and is batting .433 with 10 runs during a season-high seven-game hitting streak.The Rays' only runs Saturday came on eighth-ninth-inning homers by Carlos Pena and Jeff Keppinger."They (Tampa Bay) keep playing," Leyland said. "They keep coming back. You know they're going to do that. They don't give you anything."Tampa Bay's late rally fell short, however, and the team lost for the fifth time in six games. The Ray have combined for 10 runs while batting .139 with runners in scoring position in those defeats, and hope for better luck against Drew Smyly (2-3, 4.48 ERA), who has surrendered at least four runs in six of his last seven starts.In his first start since June 10 after a stint on the disabled list with a blister on his left middle finger, Smyly gave up six runs and eight hits in 4 2/3 innings in Tuesday's 7-5 loss to Texas.The rookie left-hander made his major league debut against the Rays on April 12, yielding a run, four hits and three walks in four innings of Detroit's 7-2 victory. Pena went 2 for 2 with a solo homer.Tampa Bay counters with Alex Cobb (3-4, 4.73), who is coming off one of the uglier complete games in MLB history.In Kansas City on Monday, Cobb was knocked around for eight runs and 13 hits over eight innings in an 8-0 loss. It was the first complete game with at least that many runs and hits allowed since Oakland's Rick Langford in 1980.Cobb gave up seven runs in the first four innings, and Joe Maddon decided to stick with his right-hander instead of burning his bullpen. Maddon was thrilled with how Cobb buckled down and called his effort "heroic."Cobb's lone appearance against the Tigers came June 13, 2011, when he allowed a run and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings of a 2-1, 10-inning loss.