DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers turned a lead in the AL Central into a 10-game deficit in a month with a staggering slump.
The Tigers, though, insist the division race isn't over.Ryan Raburn hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the sixth inning and Detroit held on to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-2 on Wednesday.The Tigers led Minnesota by a half-game after beating the Twins on July 10, then won just six of their next 28 games due in part to injuries and a big gap was formed behind them and the Chicago White Sox.Justin Verlander said it was "huge" to avoid a sweep in the series finale against Tampa Bay before going on the road to play the White Sox and Yankees."Hopefully we're able to carry this into Chicago and New York and beat up some tough teams," he said. "Chicago is one of the teams we need to catch and we need to gain some ground on them."Verlander (13-7) gave up one run and six hits in six innings while striking out seven in an eight-batter stretch."That was the only point I felt comfortable the whole game," he said.Ryan Perry pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and Jose Valverde allowed a run before earning his 22nd save in 23 chances.Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he's not worried about his team giving up despite the hole it has dug."When were in first place for quite a while and somebody hit a groundball and didn't go 110 percent, nobody said anything about it," he said. "If somebody hits a ball now and goes that same exact speed, somebody says they're not putting out. That's what you have to be careful of."It is a letdown when you were where we were, but it has nothing to do with somebody not hustling."Tampa Bay started the three-game series with a five-game skid and trailed the AL East-leading Yankees by 2 1/2 games. The Rays made up ground, but that didn't satisfy Joe Maddon."Our standards are set high," Maddon said. "We are aiming to win a division and go deep into the postseason, so we want to win every game."Matt Garza (11-7) hasn't won since he no-hit Detroit on July 26. He gave up three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings to the Tigers after throwing eight scoreless innings last week at Toronto and giving up four runs in a loss to New York in his previous two starts."I pitched well, but I lost, so it is hard to feel like it was a good outing," Garza said.He retired the side in order in the first inning, looking just as dominant as he was in his last start against Detroit, then allowed the Tigers to get a pair of hits in each of the next two innings.Miguel Cabrera hit a leadoff double off Garza in the second inning and scored on Brandon Inge's single. Matt Joyce's single in the sixth made it 1-all after Evan Longoria led off with a triple.The Tigers ended up needing their two-run cushion.After Valverde got the final out of the eighth inning, he let B.J. Upton walk to lead off the ninth. Upton stole a base, advanced on an error and scored on John Jaso's grounder. Tampa Bay's comeback hopes ended when Dan Johnson hit a flyout to end the game. giving the Tigers just their seventh win since the All-Star break a month ago.
After some debate, Detroit has decided to let slumping rookie Brennan Boesch stay in the majors instead of working on his swing in the minors. "I think I earned it, geez," said Boesch, whose batting average has dipped to .283 after hitting .342 at the break. "You just can't expect somebody to hit .350 the whole year in their first year in the big leagues. I think I spoiled people." ... The Rays plan to start James Shields, Andy Sonnanstine and Jeremy Hellickson in their next three games against Baltimore, making David Price's next start Monday against Texas. ... The Tigers sent IF Danny Worth (bruised left heel) to Triple-A Toledo for an injury rehab assignment.