Detroit, MI – Matt Joyce broke a scoreless tie with a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays added two more runs to escape Comerica Park with a 3-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the middle test of a three-game series.
Alex Cobb and Doug Fister, two of the AL's top ground ball pitchers, matched zeroes until the Rays finally broke through in the ninth.
Cobb was stellar over 7 2/3 innings, allowing just five hits and three walks while fanning seven. He did not factor in the decision after being pulled with two on in the eighth for Joel Peralta (1-2), who struck out Prince Fielder to keep the game tied.
"(Cobb) was terrific," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of the opposing starter. "He was really good."
Fister (5-3) was cruising to that point as well, needing just 92 pitches to get through eight innings before faltering in the last frame.
Sam Fuld led off the ninth with a bunt up the first-base line and deftly avoided Fielder's swipe tag with a head-first slide. Fuld raced to third on Ben Zobrist's single and scored standing up on Joyce's flyout to center.
Zobrist moved up a base on the productive out, advanced to third on a wild pitch and crossed home on Evan Longoria's base hit through a drawn-in infield.
Longoria scored from first on Desmond Jennings' triple to the right-field gap, and Fernando Rodney closed it out in the ninth for his 12th save. Rodney retired Omar Infante and Avisail Garcia to leave two men on base.
The Rays improved to 5-2 on an eight-game road trip that ends Thursday when they face the undefeated Max Scherzer.
Fister was charged with three runs on seven hits and one walk for Detroit, which failed to build off a 10-1 win in the series opener.
"Fister was lights out...so it felt good to put some runs on the board late," Jennings said.
There were not many scoring chances against either starter, and when there were, both teams ran themselves out of the inning.
A terrific defensive play by Fielder and a base-running mistake by Yunel Escobar led to a rare 3-2 double play in the third inning. With runners on the corners and one out, Fuld hit a sharp ground ball to the right side that Fielder made a diving stop on before throwing home from his knees.
Jose Lobaton was caught between third and home and was chased back to the bag by catcher Alex Avila. Avila reached Lobaton just before the base, tagged him, then alertly put down the tag on Escobar just before he slid into third.
Detroit squandered a first-and-third, one-out chance of its own in the bottom half when Garcia was caught trying to steal second and Andy Dirks bounced harmlessly back to the mound.
The Tigers have held the Rays to four runs or less in 14 consecutive games ... Cobb, who had his previous start skipped because of a cracked fingernail on his right middle finger, has pitched into the seventh inning in nine of his 11 outings ... Fielder singled in the fourth inning to extend his hitting streak to 10 games ... Roberto Hernandez will pitch opposite Scherzer in Thursday's rubber match.