ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Justin Verlander proved that a baseball adage can be wrong.
Tampa Bay's Desmond Jennings hit two of the three solo homers allowed by the Detroit ace and David Price became the AL's first 11-game winner as the Rays beat the Tigers 4-2 on Friday night.
"You know the old saying, 'Solo homers don't hurt you' does not apply tonight, not when you give up three of them," Verlander said.
The Rays beat the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner for the second time this season, ending a four-game skid in which they played sloppy defense and struggled to score.
Price (11-4) allowed two runs and five hits before leaving the game because of what the Rays described as lower back tightness after seven innings. The hard-throwing lefty threw 78 pitches, struck out seven and walked one.
"He's got electric stuff," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Price. "He's one of the better young pitchers in baseball right now. Price got the best of us. You don't always want to credit opposing pitchers, but in tonight's case I thought David was very good. Justin just didn't match him because the control was not good. Not wild wild, but just not where he wanted to throw them."
Price has won three straight decisions and five of six overall with the loss coming when the Rays were one-hit by R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets on June 13. The left-hander expects to make his next scheduled start.
"It's kind of like walking a tightrope because against a guy like Price you know you're not going to get many runs," Verlander said.
Jennings hadn't homered in over two months, yet went deep against Verlander (8-5) leading off the third and fifth innings. Ben Zobrist hit a solo homer off Verlander, who struck out eight and walked one while throwing 120 pitches. He allowed four runs and six hits over six innings.
Delmon Young hit a solo homer in the fifth and had two of Detroit's hits off Price. Prince Fielder drove in the Tigers' other run when he grounded out in the seventh.
Jennings led a stellar defensive effort Friday night, making a nice running catch while falling into the stands in left field in the third inning. The Rays turned three double plays in support of Price, who was removed after going out to the mound to warm up for the eighth.
Jake McGee worked the eighth for the Rays. Fernando Rodney finished up, earning his 22nd save in 23 opportunities.
Despite walking Ramon Santiago in the first and yielding singles to Young in the second and Austin Jackson in the fourth, Price faced the minimum 12 batters over the first four innings — thanks to two inning-ending double plays and Jackson being thrown out attempting to steal second base.
Verlander, meanwhile, allowed three homers in a game for the first time this season. The New York Yankees went deep on the Tigers ace twice in beating him on April 27 and June 3, meaning that seven of the 10 homers Verlander has allowed this season have come in the four starts he has made against those teams.
Verlander has allowed three or more homers four times during his career.
Notes: The first 10,000 fans entering the park received Zim Bear dolls bearing the likeness of Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer. The promotion was so popular that the team has ordered 10,000 more dolls and plan to give them away at a future game. ... Leyland said OF Andy Dirks (right Achilles tendinitis) was not cleared to resume baseball activities after being re-examined Friday. "They're keeping him in the boot," Leyland said. "That's not good news for us." ... Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right shoulder inflammation) is set to come off the 15-day DL and start Saturday night. The Tigers will counter with RHP Rick Porcello. Hellickson, the 2011 AL rookie of the year, missed two starts while on the DL.