ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The Tigers’ wild ninth-inning rally Thursday night, taking them from a 7-2 deficit to a 10-7 win over the Tampa Bay Rays, began and ended with the bat of Cameron Maybin, who continues to step up when needed for Detroit.
"He’s been great since he got back, not only as a player, hitting and manning center field, but his energy is real positive in the dugout," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He’s been great to have around, and obviously was a big player tonight."
Detroit will look for him to make an impact again Friday night in the second game of the series at Tropicana Field.
Maybin missed the first six weeks of the season after fracturing his left wrist in spring training, and he was slowed in mid-June by wrist and quadriceps ailments.
On Thursday, Maybin led off the ninth with a single and scored. He came back up with the game tied at 7-7 and outfielders drawn in, as Tampa Bay hoped to avoid letting the go-ahead run score on a sacrifice fly. He lined a shot past them to left-center field, bringing in three runs and capping a super-rare rally: Teams trailing by five or more in the ninth have just three wins in nearly 3,000 games over the past five seasons.
"Any win is always positive, but a win like that, you put a plus next to it," said Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who walked as part of the rally. "You come out tomorrow and try to win another game and try to continue playing well on the road."
For Detroit, the win opened a season-high, 11-game road trip and set the tone for the series against a Rays team that has dropped 13 of 15 games.
The bullpen continues to be a major vulnerability for Tampa Bay — two scoreless innings in Wednesday’s win had ended a horrid streak of 13 consecutive games in which Rays relievers allowed at least one run. They were never as bad as they were in the ninth inning Thursday, however.
Rookie Ryan Garton, who hadn’t allowed a run since his major league debut on May 26, gave up four runs on four hits to open the ninth.
Erasmo Ramirez came in with the bases loaded — he had done that five previous times this season, and had gotten out of the inning without allowing a run all five times. He wasn’t as lucky Thursday, giving up four hits and two walks and dropping to 7-7 on the year, his only out coming on a sacrifice fly.
"Just awful work from me," Ramirez said. "I didn’t throw my first-pitch strikes. Maybe I was too excited about the bases loaded and tried to get out of trouble quick. When you don’t execute those pitches, you’re in a hitter’s count, and that’s what I did. Something bad is going to happen when you do that."
Tampa Bay matched its largest blown lead in a ninth inning in franchise history, but Rays manager Kevin Cash said, "(Ramirez) was the right guy, right spot. It just didn’t work out."
The Rays will try to bounce back Friday with left-hander Drew Smyly (2-8, 5.32 ERA) going up against right-hander Michael Fulmer (7-2, 2.40 ERA).
Smyly, who began his major league career with Detroit, has yet to beat his former team. He is 0-2 with a 5.56 ERA in two career starts against the Tigers. He took the loss at Detroit on May 21 when he gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Fulmer got the win that day, striking out a career-high 11 and giving up one run in seven innings during a 5-4 victory. That was the rookie’s lone career outing against the Rays.
Fulmer has limited the opposition to no more than one run in each of his past seven starts. He is 5-1 with a 0.61 ERA in that span.