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Verlander, Tigers falter in 9th, lose 4-2 to Rays

For most of the game, Justin Verlander was calm and efficient, seemingly headed for another masterpiece.

In the ninth inning, he began reaching back for a little more speed — and that might have cost his team the game.

"Once a couple guys got on, really the first time I've cranked it up like that — and lost a little bit of my consistency that I'd had all day," Verlander said. "It's inexcusable. This loss rests solely on my shoulders today."

Ben Zobrist hit a tiebreaking two-run single, part of a four-run ninth inning by Tampa Bay in its 4-2 win over Verlander and the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday. Verlander took a one-hitter into the ninth and hadn't allowed a run all season, but he couldn't close out the Rays.

Verlander (0-1) gave up a run on a wild pitch, and Evan Longoria then tied the game at 2 with a single to left on his 104th and final pitch.

Daniel Schlereth came on and allowed a walk to load the bases, and Zobrist singled up the middle off Jose Valverde.

"They are never going to give up," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Say what you want about this team, but they play nine hard innings."

The Tigers (4-1) lost for the first time this season.

James Shields (1-0) allowed six hits and two runs in eight innings. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his third save.

For most of the day, Verlander was marvelous. He took a no-hitter into the fifth and had thrown just 81 pitches through eight.

But pinch-hitter Jeff Keppinger started the ninth with a single, and Desmond Jennings added another one an out later.

"When you go against Verlander, if you get the ball in between the giant white lines, you've accomplished something. You know he's going to beat you most of the time, but you just hope he makes a mistake and you can take advantage," Jennings said. "Kepp gave us a lot of confidence. We hadn't been doing anything before that, but he got a hit and we got things going from there."

Carlos Pena drew a walk — with ball four skipping past catcher Alex Avila for a wild pitch that made it 2-1.

Verlander's final pitch to Longoria was clocked at 100 mph, but the star third baseman was able to hit a sharp single through the left side of the infield, and neither Detroit reliever was able to stop the rally until it was too late.

"I got away from what I'd been doing all day," Verlander said. "I'd been playing to those guys' aggressiveness, getting them out in front on off-speed stuff and then just got away from it there in the ninth for no reason."

Verlander allowed four runs and four hits in 8 1-3 innings. He walked two and struck out seven. Verlander, last year's AL Cy Young and MVP winner, pitched eight scoreless innings against Boston last week. He didn't get the win that day either — Valverde squandered the lead, although the Tigers did win that game.

"Both starting pitchers were terrific again today. You figure runs are going to be scarce," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We couldn't add on to that two-spot. It made you a little uneasy but the way he was pitching, you certainly felt pretty comfortable."

Wednesday was Verlander's first regular-season loss since July 15.

Shields, who finished third in last year's Cy Young voting, allowed an RBI single in the first to Miguel Cabrera. He also balked in a run in the fifth.

Shields bounced back from a shaky first start, when he allowed six runs and nine hits in five innings against the New York Yankees.

The Rays are 4-1 for the first time in franchise history. The Tigers were trying to start 5-0 for the first time since 2006, when they won the American League pennant.

Notes: Detroit LHP Drew Smyly will make his major league debut Thursday when he takes the mound against Tampa Bay RHP Jeff Niemann. The Tigers announced they will purchase Smyly's contract before his start and designate OF Clete Thomas for assignment. ... Detroit's Andy Dirks doubled in the fifth and scored on the balk by Shields.