DETROIT (AP) — With the bases loaded and nobody out, Tampa Bay’s Brad Boxberger came out of the bullpen hoping for a strikeout and a double play.
The order didn’t much matter.
"I was looking for the strikeout initially," Boxberger said. "But it worked out to get the double play and limit the damage."
Evan Longoria homered, Ben Zobrist doubled twice and the Rays finally broke through offensively against Detroit, but it was Boxberger’s relief work that preserved a 6-3 victory over the Tigers on Friday night. Tampa Bay was up 5-2 when he came on in the sixth inning. Torii Hunter hit into a double play, bringing home another run. Then Boxberger struck out Don Kelly to end the inning.
Boxberger struck out two more in a perfect seventh before exiting the game. The 26-year-old right-hander now has 51 strikeouts in 33 1-3 innings this year.
The Rays had gone 19 straight games against the Tigers without scoring more than four runs, a streak that went back more than three years. Tampa Bay had seven extra-base hits Friday, including a two-run triple by Sean Rodriguez in the sixth.
Alex Cobb (4-6) allowed three runs and five hits in five-plus innings for the Rays, and their bullpen allowed only one baserunner. Boxberger was perfect for two innings, Joel Peralta worked the eighth, and Jake McGee finished for his fourth save.
Detroit’s Drew Smyly (4-8) allowed five runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
There were three hit batsmen, and umpires warned both benches in the sixth. After the warnings, Rays manager Joe Maddon argued and was ejected.
Desmond Jennings doubled twice and scored three runs for the Rays. Tampa Bay rebounded after an 8-1 loss Thursday to start this four-game series, and the last-place Rays have now won six of seven.
Detroit’s AL Central lead over Kansas City fell to four games. Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez left in the eighth because of back irritation.
"He aggravated his side, so we got him out of there," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "The chances of him playing (Saturday) are almost nil, and we’ll go day-to-day after that."
Jennings and Zobrist hit back-to-back doubles in the third to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead, and Longoria led off the fourth with his 11th homer of the year. An RBI groundout by Hunter in the bottom of the fourth made it 2-1.
Zobrist hit an RBI double in the fifth, and Rodriguez’s triple the following inning brought two more runs in.
Cobb hit Ian Kinsler to lead off the bottom of the sixth — with Miguel Cabrera on deck. Longoria and Martinez had been hit earlier in the game, so plate umpire Quinn Wolcott warned both benches.
"I never thought there was any malice on either side," Ausmus said. "I didn’t think Cobb meant to hit Victor, I didn’t think Smyly meant to hit Longoria, and I didn’t think Cobb meant to hit Kinsler. No one tried to hit anyone."
Maddon said he felt the Tigers intentionally hit Longoria, but he said the Rays weren’t throwing at Kinsler immediately afterward.
"We hit Victor, yes. Totally accident, he pulls a fastball. Then they intentionally hit Longo," Maddon said. "We’re not going to reciprocate right there. We’re not, it’s over. We’re good. But then this whole other thing ensues."
Maddon took a few steps out of the dugout, and second base umpire Greg Gibson seemed to motion to him to stay back. Maddon continued arguing from a distance, and after being tossed, Maddon approached Gibson and kept arguing before finally leaving.
It was Maddon’s third ejection of the year and 35th of his career.
Cobb didn’t get another out. Cabrera walked and Martinez hit an RBI single. After J.D. Martinez walked to load the bases, Boxberger came on and got Hunter to bounce into a double play that brought another run home.
"The double play was a big bonus, because he’s in there to miss bats in that moment," Maddon said. "You want the guy to either put the ball on the ground or be able to punch somebody out. Now if you get a guy who can do both, how good is that guy?"
Kelly struck out to end the threat. Jennings doubled and scored in the seventh to make it 6-3.
NOTES: Peralta made his 267th appearance for the Rays, the most for the franchise by a pitcher. Esteban Yan had 266. … Austin Jackson struck out four times for Detroit and Eugenio Suarez fanned three times. … The Rays put LHP Cesar Ramos on the paternity list and recalled LHP Jeff Beliveau from Triple-A Durham. … Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez (5-2) faces Tampa Bay RHP Chris Archer (4-5) on Saturday.