5 - 2 Final
  for this game

Verlander gets 19th win as Tigers top Rays

Aug 23, 2011 - 5:32 AM St. Petersburg, FL (Sports Network) - Alex Avila's two-run home run backed seven strong innings by Justin Verlander as the Tigers took down the Rays, 5-2, to open a four-game series.

Verlander (19-5) allowed one run on three hits and three walks while fanning eight in the right-hander's seventh consecutive victory. He also tied his career-high in wins with his major league-leading 19th victory.

"Against him it's not easy. He's that good. He's 19-5 for a reason," Rays manager Joe Maddon said about Verlander.

Don Kelly added a solo shot in Detroit's fourth straight win. The Tigers widened their lead in the AL Central to 5 1/2 games over both Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox.

Jeff Niemann (8-5) gave up four runs on six hits and three walks in 7 1/3 innings. He had won his previous seven decisions prior to the loss, his first since May 4 against Toronto.

Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria went deep for the Rays, who had their season high-tying five-game winning streak snapped.

Joyce's leadoff home run into the bleachers in right-center field in the bottom of the first inning gave the Rays an early 1-0 lead.

"[Joyce] hit a decent pitch. He cheated a little bit on a fastball in," Verlander said. "Whether it's the first batter of the game or the 27th guy, it's only one run."

The lead was short-lived, as Avila answered with a two-run shot to left in the second. Miguel Cabrera led off the frame with a soft liner into center field prior to Avila's opposite-field homer.

After a single by Brennan Boesch and a double by Delmon Young put runners on second and third with one out in the eighth inning, Niemann intentionally walked Cabrera to load the bases before being replaced by Jake McGee.

McGee struck out Avila looking on a fastball at the knees before he was pulled in favor of Juan Cruz. But Jhonny Peralta greeted Cruz with a single through the left side of the infield to score Boesch and Young, increasing the Tigers' lead to 4-1.

Kelly's leadoff homer in the ninth pushed it to 5-1.

Longoria led off the ninth with a bomb over the left-field fence off Jose Valverde. A Casey Kotchman base hit and a Sam Fuld walk later brought the game-tying run the plate with two outs, but John Jaso bounced a weak grounder to second to end the game.

After Joyce's homer, Verlander did not let another runner touch second base until Johnny Damon legged out a one-out double in the sixth. Verlander would strand him there, though, by inducing a Longoria grounder to third and fanning Ben Zobrist on three pitches.

Game Notes

Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez was scratched from the game because of back spasms...Rays center fielder B.J. Upton left the game with a strained right shoulder and is day-to-day...Verlander improved to 6-1 in 10 career starts against the Rays...Niemann's seven-decision winning streak ties the Rays' club record shared with Wade Davis (July 8-Sep 11, 2010) and Mark Hendrickson (July 31-Sep 25, 2005)...Verlander's 19th win in 127 games marks the fastest a Tigers pitcher won his 19th game of the season since Mickey Lolich did so in the club's 114th game of the 1972 season.