Tigers rock Kazmir, deprive Rays of clinching AL East outright

DETROIT -- Scott Kazmir wanted to be the center of the biggest celebrations in Tampa Bay Rays history. His plans were derailed by two stunning homers from one of the most unlikely players.

Ramon Santiago homered twice off the Rays ace for his second and third career home runs since 2003 and the Detroit Tigers delayed Tampa Bay's AL East title with a 7-5 victory Thursday afternoon.

"My teammates were saying, 'Hey, it's Sammy Sosa!' But I kept telling them no," Santiago said. "It was fun, but I want to keep hitting line drives."

A Rays win would have clinched the division, and Boston beat Cleveland 6-1 on Thursday night to shave Tampa Bay's division lead to two games.

Ben Zobrist homered twice and drove in four runs for Tampa Bay. The Rays have already clinched the first playoff spot in the team's short history, but manager Joe Maddon wants them to go into October as division champs.

"Our goal at the beginning of this year was to win the American League East," Maddon said. "We still want to do that, and we want home-field advantage, because we play so well at the Trop."

Tampa led 1-0 early on Zobrist's first-inning homer, but Santiago led off both the bottom half of the first and third innings with homers off Kazmir. Santiago came into the game with only seven homers in a seven-season career, though he also homered twice in the same game since going deep off Pedro Martinez and Tim Wakefield on June 3, 2002.

"I just kept getting into a groove and then falling right back out of it," Kazmir said. "I never felt like I was in my comfort zone, and I wasn't throwing with any conviction."

Kazmir allowed four homers for the second time in three starts -- the only times he's allowed four in a game in his career.

"I don't know what was happening there," Maddon said. "Normally, guys don't get good swings against Scott on 0-2 pitches, especially guys that don't have much power like Santiago."

The Rays were finishing up a grueling three-day stretch in which they played a doubleheader Tuesday against the Orioles, a night game Wednesday in Baltimore and a day game Thursday in Detroit.

"That was a tough scheduling situation -- four games in three days and a short night last night," Maddon said. "I'm proud of how much energy our guys showed today, but I'm looking forward to a good night's sleep."

The reeling Tigers, headed to their first losing season since Jim Leyland became manager in 2006, won for just the second time in 14 games.

"It wasn't that we had more energy -- we just played a good ballgame," Leyland said. "We hit the ball out of the park, which is unexpected from Santi, and we pitched good."

Rookie Armando Galarraga (13-6) allowed five runs and six hits in 7 2/3 innings, and Fernando Rodney finished for his 11th save. Zobrist's homer was the Rays' only hit in the first six innings.

"It felt good to finally get that 13th win and to finish the year with a victory," said Galarraga, who was 0-2 in his previous five starts. "My goal for next year? Win 20."

Evan Longoria homered for the Rays in the seventh, but the Tigers went ahead 7-2 in the bottom half when Curtis Granderson homered.

Zobrist hit a long, three-run homer in the eighth, but the Rays couldn't get anything else.

"That was a heck of a game by Ben -- there can't be too many guys that hit the ball out in straightaway center in this ballpark," Maddon said. "We fell a little short, but we'll be back out here tomorrow."

Game notes
If the Tigers have to go to Chicago on Monday to make up a rainout against the White Sox, they would start former Chicago pitcher Freddy Garcia. The game would be played only if needed to decide the AL Central race between Minnesota and Chicago. ... Tigers closer Todd Jones, who announced his retirement Wednesday, held an emotional news conference before the game. Jones, Detroit's career saves leader, is to be honored in a pregame ceremony on Saturday. ... Tampa's Troy Percival, who is dealing with a knee problem, pitched for the first time in four days, allowing a walk in one inning. ... The game drew 36,259, raising the Tigers' home season total to a team record 3,081,098, breaking the previous mark of 3,047,139, set last year. Detroit has three home dates left.