ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Chris Archer wasn’t quite perfect enough.
On a day when the Tampa Bay right-hander retired his first 19 batters in the longest perfect-game bid in franchise history, Justin Verlander outlasted Archer and the Detroit Tigers beat the Rays 2-1 Wednesday to avoid a three-game sweep.
"I’ve thrown better games statistically," Archer said, "To me, I didn’t throw a perfect game or a no-hitter, so there’s no reason to think: ‘Oh, I was so close.’ I gave up three hits in the seventh inning. If I didn’t, things would be a lot different."
Things might have been different also if shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera had not booted a potential double-play grounder that could have gotten Archer (9-8) out of the inning. Both of Detroit’s runs were unearned.
"It was a perfect ground-ball double play," said Cabrera, who had homered off Verlander for the Rays’ first hit and only run. "I tried to be too quick to make the double play, so that can happen in that situation."
Verlander (1-3) retired his first 14 batters before Cabrera homered with two outs in the fifth. The Detroit ace gave up one run, four hits and struck out 10 in his first win this season.
"It was very much vintage Verlander," Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Archer allowed three hits and struck out 11 in seven innings.
"The only thing going through my mind while watching him pitch the first three or four innings was Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout game," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who caught that game for the Chicago Cubs on May 6, 1998. "It was as good of stuff as I’ve seen in a long time."
Jose Iglesias became the Tigers’ first runner with a one-out single in the seventh. Cabrera fielded the grounder between shortstop and third, and his off-balance one-hop throw wasn’t in time.
"I find that hard to believe when people say they don’t think about (a perfect game) and they say I didn’t even know," Archer said. "Obviously you know, and it makes me more relaxed and more focused. I’m not afraid to not throw a perfect game because I’ve never done it before."
After Cabrera was charged with an error for misplaying Yoenis Cespedes’ grounder, the Tigers took a 2-1 lead on RBI singles by J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos, whose liner deflected off Cabrera’s glove.
Verlander struck out Cabrera with two on to end the seventh. He was making his eighth start after beginning the season on the disabled list with a strained right triceps.
Joakim Soria pitched the ninth for his 23rd save in 26 chances.
Cabrera made a nice defensive play in the fourth, diving to his left to catch Ian Kinsler’s hard grounder and then threw out the leadoff hitter. Kevin Kiermaier made a leaping catch with his back facing the infield in deep center in the sixth to rob James McCann of an extra-base hit.
Tigers: LHP Kyle Lobstein (left shoulder) is set to throw batting practice and is nearing a minor league rehab assignment.
Rays: LHP Drew Smyly (torn left labrum) will make his second rehab start with Triple-A Durham on Friday night. OF Desmond Jennings, who has missed 85 games due to a left knee injury, will join Smyly and play in his first minor league game.
The Rays purchased the contract of C Bobby Wilson from Triple-A Durham. The move gave Tampa Bay three catchers, providing protection so C Curt Casali could DH and Rene Rivera catch.
The Rays lost for an AL-most ninth time when allowing two or fewer runs. … Verlander had his 29th double-digit strikeout game. … Cabrera’s homer game was his first off Verlander, coming on his 73rd plate appearance against the right-hander.
Tigers: RHP Alfredo Simon (9-6), who left last Saturday’s game with a groin strain, is scheduled to face Baltimore RHP Miguel Gonzalez (9-6) in the opener of a four-game series Thursday night.
Rays: RHP Erasmo Ramirez (8-4) will start the first of three games at Boston on Friday night.