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Tigers 5, Rays 3: Tigers win series, bullpen shuts down Rays with 4 scoreless innings

Final - 7.1.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 1 2 2 0 0 0 5 10 0
Tampa Bay Rays 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 5 1
WP: Drew Smyly (3 - 3)
SV: Jose Valverde (15)
LP: Alex Cobb (3 - 5)

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The Detroit Tigers took their weekend series from the Tampa Bay Rays with a 5-3 victory. Tigers' starter Drew Smyly (3-3) no-hit the Rays for 4 innings, pitching 5 total, which was enough to give him his first win in over a month. Jose Valverde converted his 15th save of the season. Alex Cobb (3-5) took the loss for the Rays.

Prince Fielder and Alex Avila paced the Tiger' offense, both with 2 hits and an RBI. Ben Zobrist and Hidecki Matsui had 2 hits for the Rays.

Smyly got off to an unlucky start, the Rays scoring without benefit of hit. Lead off man Desmond Jennings led off the bottom of the1st with a base on balls, stole 2nd, advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch and scored on B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly.

The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard in the 4th. After a Fielder single, Delmon Young grounded into a tailor made 5-4-3 double pla....NO! 3rd baseman Brooks Conrad booted the would be easy double play ball, keeping a possible rally alive. Back-to-back singles from Alex Avila and Ryan Raburn tied the game at 1 all.

Just as things were looking up, the Tigers' season long struggles with the bases loaded then reared its ugly head. Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago and Austin Jackson couldn't get a ball out of the infield, a frustrating ending to the inning. 1 run was OK, but I want crooked numbers.

While the Tigers were leaving runners stranded like they were passengers on the USS Minnow, Smyly had recorded 12 consecutive outs, taking a no-hitter into the 5th. No, I didn't realize it either.

Smyly actually had a lead to work after the top of the 5th inning. The Tigers loaded the bases with no one out...again. There were no hits to follow, but Young and Avila got the ball out of the infield. Their consecutive sacrifice flies plated 2 runs. Given the green light on a 3-0 pitch, Avila came up about a foot short of a grand slam.

Once given a 3-1 lead, Smyly beached the Minnow, immediately giving the runs back. Zobrist doubled to lead off the inning, the Rays' first hit. The hits then came fast and furious. Zobrist scored on Matsui's 1 out single. Jose Molina doubled past a diving Don Kelly into the right field gap, Matsui scoring all the way from 1st without a throw. Tigers fans were expecting the worst, and Smyly's implosion to continue. But the kid settled down, and got out of the inning without incident.

Ever watchful of his pitch count (92), Smyly's start was deemed over and done with a solid line of 5 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 K. I'm disappointed he faltered some in the 5th, but I'll take that stat line from my 5th starter every damn time..

The Tigers bounced right back in the next half inning, scoring 2. Leading off, Kelly doubled, and advanced to 3rd on Santiago's sacrifice bunt. I'm sure many of you, including yours truly, decried the use of small ball. But in this case, it worked. Jackson's RBI single brought home Kelly and knocked Rays' starting pitcher Alex Cobb out of the game. Jackson ultimately came around to score on Fielder's 2 out single. The result? Tigers 5, Rays 3, small ball 2, Jackson ASG snub 1, haters 0.

And that was that for the Tigers' offense. The only base runner after Fielder's single was....Fielder. Thr All-Start Game starter also singled with 2 out in the 9th. So with the offense having gone dormant, the game would now ride on the back of the bullpen.

No problem.

Brayan Villarreal took over for Smyly in the 6th. His 1 inning was brilliant, striking out the side. Villarreal's K/9 rate is an now an insane 13.5.

Phil Coke pitched out of a 2 on, 1 out jam in the 7th, with a huge assist from Zobrist and Avila. Coke's pitch to Molina was in the dirt, and bounced away from Avila. Zobrist didn't get a good jump, but tried to take 3rd anyway.. He was denied, thanks to a nice throw from the Tigers' catcher, stopping any rally dead in its tracks. .

Just as it's written in the managerial book, set-up man Joaquin Benoit come on for the 8th. The book was right on, Benoit striking out 2 in a 1-2-3 inning. Make that 3 scoreless innings for the pen, setting up Jose Valverde for the save.

For the 2nd straight game, there would be no drama from the Big Potato. Papa Grande put down the Rays 1-2-3 for his 15th save. The final totals for the bullpen? 4 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 6 K, 0 BB. Yeah...

The Tigers bounced back from losing 2 of 3 from both the Pirates and Rangers to take 3 of 4 from the Rays. It was a long 10 game road trip against 1st division teams. I'm perfectly happy with a .500 record. Now if this team could just get back over the .500 hump...

Speaking of which, the Tigers are a game under the break even mark at 39-40, 3 games back of the 1st place White Sox. Up next is a 7 game home stand, 4 with the last place Twins and 3 against Royals. With the Al-Star break looming around the corner, and considering thew upcoming competition, now is the perfect time for a winning streak.

It's also long past time to make a move in the AL Central standings.

In case you missed it:

Prince Fielder, Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera named to AL All-Star Game roster


Drew Smyly: After allowing 6 runs in 4 2/3 in his first start off the DL, taking a no-hitter into the 5th inning is a nice comeback performance for the rookie. He gave the Tigers a chance to win, which is all you ask from a 5th starter.

Brayan Villareal: His striking out the side in the 6th was as dominant of an inning you'll ever see from a relief pitcher.

Joaquin Benoit: Almost as dominant as Villareal.


Tigers 4 thru 7 hitters: Productive day with 6 hits and 4 RBI.

Ryan Raburn: How many of you realized the much reviled Raburn hit .345/.464/.809 in June? I realize it's a small sample size, and his June BABiP was .450, but the signs are all positive (with the bat, anyway). 2nd Half Raburn just may be on the way, as shown by his bases loaded single. My fingers are crossed.


Take 3 from the Rays in Tampa? No hisses from me!


All-Star Game snubs: How these things usually work is a player breaks out in one season, then becomes ASG worthy the next, especially on a team with well established stars. So Austin Jackson is a shoo-in for the 2013 game.


7 dominant shutout innings lifted Rick Porcello to a PotG win with an overwhelming 88% of the vote.