Rays fall to Tigers 5-2 for first defeat
DETROIT – With the score tied in the fifth inning, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera to load the bases for Prince Fielder.
The move worked when Fielder hit a routine flyball.
In the eighth, Maddon decided to challenge Fielder again, with first base open and a left-hander on the mound.
"Prince hit the ball in the perfect spot," Maddon said.
Fielder's single up the middle scored Miguel Cabrera from second, part of a snowy eighth-inning rally that gave the Detroit Tigers a 5-2 win over the Rays on Tuesday.
Austin Jackson homered for Detroit, which is the AL's last unbeaten team after handing the Rays their first defeat.
After Fielder's tiebreaking single, a light snow shower passed briefly over Comerica Park. Jhonny Peralta added a sacrifice fly later in the inning, and Gerald Laird's RBI single gave the Tigers a three-run lead. Phil Coke (1-0) pitched the eighth, and Jose Valverde finished for his first save of the season.
Valverde blew a save for the first time since 2010 in Thursday's opener against Boston.
After Cabrera's leadoff double in the bottom of the eighth, Tampa Bay chose to pitch to Fielder, Detroit's left-handed swinging cleanup hitter. Rays southpaw Jake McGee was on the mound.
"The righty-lefty matchup doesn't matter with Cabrera. There's no pitcher you like there, because he doesn't care who he is facing. He just hits the ball," Maddon said. "I liked the lefty-lefty matchup with Prince."
Fielder foiled the strategy with his single off McGee (0-1), and Cabrera lumbered around to score for a 3-2 lead.
Rick Porcello allowed two runs and seven hits in seven innings for the Tigers in a game that began amid snow flurries with the temperature in the 40s. Porcello struck out four and walked one.
"He commanded the fastball on both sides of the plate and when he does that, he pitches like he did today," said Laird, Detroit's catcher. "Running sinkers in on them and then sinkers away, they didn't know what to look for. Throwing his offspeed pitches off that, I definitely think it's a great building point for him."
Tampa Bay's Matt Moore allowed two runs and four hits in 6 2-3 innings. He walked five — one intentionally — and struck out four in his second career regular-season start. The 22-year-old also started a playoff game last year, not long after making his debut.
Tampa Bay went ahead 2-1 in the seventh on an RBI infield single by Desmond Jennings, but Jackson homered in the bottom half off Moore.
Detroit has won its first four games — three in its final at-bat. The Rays lost for the first time after a three-game sweep of the New York Yankees. It was their first regular-season loss in nine games. They won their last five of 2011 to snatch a surprising playoff berth.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring in the third when Evan Longoria drew a bases-loaded walk. Detroit tied it in the bottom half when Moore's wild pitch enabled Jackson to score.
"I choked on a changeup and bounced it," Moore said. "That was just an awful pitch."
NOTES: Tampa Bay OF Luke Scott missed the game and is day to day with a tight left hamstring. ... Tigers manager Jim Leyland said INF Brandon Inge (strained left groin) was heading to Triple-A Toledo for a rehabilitation assignment Tuesday night. ... Leyland also said LHP Adam Wilk will pitch Saturday against the White Sox in Chicago. Detroit had a vacancy in its rotation after Doug Fister went on the DL with a left side strain. ... There also was a light snow shower in the fifth inning. ... Tampa Bay used a starting pitcher age 30 or younger for a 900th consecutive game, a streak dating to 2006. ... AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (0-0) of Detroit will take the mound Wednesday against James Shields (0-0) of Tampa Bay, who finished third in the voting.