ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon went with an unconventional plan and it worked, again.
The Rays got out of a seventh-inning jam for the second consecutive game after intentionally walking AL triple crown contender Miguel Cabrera with runners on first and second and two outs en route to a 7-4 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday night.Grant Balfour, who ended the late threat in Monday's 3-2 win over the Tigers by striking out Brennan Boesch, this time retired the right fielder on a fly ball to preserve Tampa Bay's 5-4 lead."It's an ugly moment," Maddon said. "It's the same exact circumstance. That's something we had talked about and we were going to do it. Same pitcher, same hitter, which was a little bit less comfortable because Boesch had seen Grant the day before. So there's that little bit uncomfortable feeling there, but we had to do it."Boesch went 0 for 4 and has just four hits in his last 46 at-bats. After a torrid start, the rookie's batting average dropped to .301."Miguel is the best hitter in the game," Boesch said. "I'd do the same thing, probably. Hopefully I start swinging the way I'm capable of and they think twice. You better believe when they do that I'm up there to try and get it done. I'm sure it will happen again and I'll be ready for it."Rays starter Jeff Niemann (9-3) allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings. Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer in the eighth, extending Tampa Bay's advantage to 7-4.Cabrera got Detroit within 5-4 on his 25th homer this season, a solo shot during the sixth that went an estimated 436 feet. He has 13 homers and 45 RBIs in 46 road games."I've not ever hit a 3-wood that far," Maddon said. "And he did it so easily."Johnny Damon also homered for the Tigers, who have lost nine straight road games and are 3-11 since the All-Star break. Detroit manager Jim Leyland served a one-game suspension stemming from his ejection for arguing a call in Monday night's game.Tampa Bay center fielder Ben Zobrist left after three innings with lower back stiffness. Maddon said the injury is not thought to be serious, but that Zobrist will not start on Thursday when the Rays look to complete a four-game sweep.Jason Bartlett hit a run-scoring single and Carl Crawford had an RBI grounder off Eddie Bonine (4-1) as the Rays took a 5-3 lead in the fourth.Rafael Soriano pitched the ninth for his career-high 28th save.After Damon made it 3-1 with a third-inning solo homer, the Rays tied it in the bottom half of the inning on Carlos Pena's RBI single and a run-scoring grounder from Willy Aybar.Damon drove in a run with a double and Jeff Larish had an RBI single to put the Tigers up 2-0 in the first. Tampa Bay got one run back later in the first on a run-scoring single by Matt Joyce.Bonine gave up five runs and eight hits over 3 1/3 innings in his first start of the season. The right-hander made a spot start due to the Tigers playing a doubleheader last Sunday.
Cabrera has hit at least 25 homers in seven consecutive seasons. ... Rays CF B.J. Upton (sprained left ankle) took batting practice and did light running on the warning track. "It was OK," said Upton, who could return to the lineup this weekend. ... Leyland went to the Tigers spring training complex in Lakeland to watch his son Patrick play for the rookie-level Gulf Coast League Tigers in an afternoon game. Patrick Leyland, a catcher, got two hits against the GCL Yankees. ... Longoria had been hitless in 19 at-bats before a third-inning single.