Rays stay hot at the plate to beat Tigers in series opener
DETROIT (AP) — Kevin Kiermaier loves playing at Comerica Park and its spacious outfield.
His exceptional range means that the large dimensions aren’t a problem, and the wide-open field is made for a gap hitter.
Kiermaier came up in the sixth inning Friday night with the bases loaded and lined a tie-breaking triple into the right-field corner as the Rays went on to a 7-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers. It was Kiermaier’s third triple in seven career games at the ballpark.
"This has to be the biggest outfield in baseball," he said. "Maybe there are a couple in the National League that are close, but there’s nothing like it in the American League, and that is great for a triples hitter."
With reliever Kyle Ryan having just walked Logan Morrison to load the bases, Kiermaier knew he was going to get something to hit on the first pitch. It was a cutter over the plate, and Kiermaier yanked it down the line.
"As soon as I made contact, I knew it was going to be into the corner," he said. "In this place, if you hit one down the line or get it into the gaps, you are thinking third base out of the box."
Steven Souza and Steve Pearce homered for the Rays, helping overcome two homers by Miguel Cabrera to snap the Tigers’ four-game winning streak.
"I saw way too much of Miggy when I was with Cleveland," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "The guy is unbelievable. The pitchers hate giving up homers, but all you can do is tell him `Hey, he’s the best.’"
Matt Andriese (3-0) picked up the win despite allowing four runs in 5 1/3 innings. Four relievers followed, with Alex Colome pitching the ninth for his 11th save in 11 chances.
Anibal Sanchez (3-5) allowed five runs in five-plus innings for the Tigers.
Sanchez has struggled early in games this year as opponents have a .864 OPS against him on the second time through the batting order. Things got worse on Friday. Souza homered on his second pitch, and Tampa Bay added two more runs in the first on Corey Dickerson’s double and Morrison’s single.
The Tigers got a run back in the second when Andriese balked with runners on the corners.
Detroit tied the score in the third. Ian Kinsler singled, but J.D. Martinez hit what looked like a routine double-play ball to shortstop Brad Miller. Second baseman Pearce, though, was shifted to the left-field side of second base and froze instead of covering second base. Pearce, normally a first baseman and corner outfielder, was making just his 19th career start at second.
Miller threw Martinez out, but it cost Andriese a run when Cabrera homered three pitches later.
"Generally, we are a pretty crisp defensive team, but we weren’t tonight," Cash said.
Sanchez had a surprisingly easy time with his second time through Tampa Bay’s order, only allowing an infield single, but Tigers manager Brad Ausmus pulled him after he allowed a single and a walk to start the sixth.
"I know everything is coming out good, and it isn’t mental," said Sanchez, whose ERA went to 6.23. "In the first inning, I give up a ground ball on the line and a ground-ball infield single and they get two runs. In the sixth, base hit, walk and runs. What can I do?"
Ryan retired the first two batters he faced, but walked Morrison before Kiermaier’s triple.
The Tigers got a run back in the bottom of the sixth, but Evan Longoria made an outstanding play to start an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded.
Cabrera made it 6-5 in the seventh, homering off the facing of the camera platform in straightaway center field off Erasmo Ramirez. Pearce, though, moved the lead back to two with an eighth-inning homer off Alex Wilson.
Rays: RHP Brad Boxberger is scheduled to make a relief outing with Triple-A Durham on Saturday. Boxberger was an All-Star as Tampa’s closer in 2015, but has been sidelined this season after adductor surgery. He has made two one-inning rehab appearances for Single-A Charlotte.
Tigers: RHP Shane Greene, sidelined since April 25 with a blister, pitched three scoreless innings in a rehab start with Low-A West Michigan Friday night. He’s expected to make at least one more rehab appearance before rejoining the Tigers.
STOLEN BASE STREAK
Cameron Maybin has stolen a base in each of his four games since returning from the disabled list on Monday. Rajai Davis had a four-game streak in 2014, but Ron LeFlore and Ty Cobb are the only Tigers since 1913 to do it in five straight. LeFlore has the modern franchise record with a six-game streak in 1977.
The teams play the second game of their three-game weekend series Saturday afternoon, with former Tiger Drew Smyly (2-4, 3.44) facing Michael Fulmer (2-1, 6.52). The pair were each part of major trading-deadline moves by Dave Dombrowski, with Smyly going to Tampa Bay in a 2014 trade for David Price, while Fulmer came from the Mets last season in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes.