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Justin Verlander outduels Archer as Detroit Tigers beat Tampa Bay Rays

By
Greg Auman, The Sports Xchange
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander stands on the mound. UPI/Kevin Dietsch
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander stands on the mound. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Detroit's Justin Verlander outdueled Tampa Bay Rays' Chris Archer as the Tigers didn't get a baserunner until the seventh inning but scored two unearned runs, avoiding a sweep with a 2-1 win Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

Detroit (49-52) took advantage in the seventh of two misplays by Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera -- an error on what could have been an inning-ending double play, then a two-out line drive from third baseman Nick Castellanos that went off his glove for an RBI single.

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The Rays (51-52) had won the first two games of the series.

Verlander (1-3) struck out 10 batters without a walk in eight innings for his first win in eight starts this season. He had allowed one run in eight innings in his last start, but the Tigers had lost 2-1 to the Boston Red Sox. Tigers closer Joakim Soria pitched a scoreless ninth for his 23rd save of the season.

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"He's making quick progress," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I'm not saying Justin's going to go out and pitch like that every single outing, but if we know we have that type of Verlander in the rotation, we feel a lot better about where we're standing. It's just two starts. I don't want to jump the gun, but it's very promising."

Archer struck out 11, but was doomed by a 32-pitch seventh inning where his defense didn't help him.

Both starting pitchers took perfect games into the fifth inning, with Archer striking out seven in the first four innings and Verlander fanning five.

"Quite frankly, the only thing going through my mind as I was watching him pitch the first three or four innings was Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game," Ausmus said. "It was as good of stuff as I've seen in a long time.

The first hit of the game came with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, when Cabrera hit a solo home run to right field for a 1-0 lead. Cabrera, who returned from the disabled list Tuesday after missing time with a groin injury, had gone 3-for-4 in his first game back before Wednesday's home run.

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Archer stayed perfect, getting a huge assist from Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who made a leaping catch over his head just before he ran into the wall in center for a key out in the sixth inning.

Archer's perfect game was broken up with one out in the seventh inning when Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias got an infield single, beating out a throw from shortstop. Archer retired the first 19 batters he faced, making it the longest perfect-game bid in Rays history -- Matt Garza had the mark with the first 18 in a 2009 game against Boston.

One error quickly turned the game from perfection to trailing -- after Iglesias' hit, Cabrera fielded a double-play ball from designated hitter Victor Martinez, but couldn't get the ball out of his glove, putting two on instead of ending the inning.

"That can't happen in that situation," Cabrera said. "Archer, he did a great job today, one of the best starts this year. All I can say is it's a crazy game."

Right fielder J.D. Martinez came through with a two-out single to bring in Iglesias and tie the game.

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Then third baseman Nick Castellanos ripped a line drive to shortstop, and Cabrera leaped and got his glove on it, but couldn't come down with the inning-ending out in what was ruled a base hit and an RBI for a 2-1 lead.

"Nobody's at fault," Archer said. "One hundred more times, we'll have that play to Cabrera and it'll be made. That's the one anomaly, and he's allowed to have that. He's been great for us all year. He probably has the highest fielding percentage of any shortstop in the American League. You know that's so rare that you're not upset at all."

The Rays got three hits in the seventh off Verlander but couldn't score -- right fielder Steve Souza singled but was caught stealing, and Tampa Bay had two on and two out but Cabrera struck out to end the inning.

NOTES: After trading OF David DeJesus to the Angels on Tuesday night for minor league RHP Eduar Lopez, the Rays filled his roster spot by recalling C Bobby Wilson. That move gave them three catchers, allowing them to use red-hot Curt Casali (four HRs in last two games) as a DH and still have a backup available behind Rene Rivera, who started at catcher. Casali had replaced Wilson as the team's backup catcher six weeks ago. ... Wednesday's 12:10 p.m. first pitch coincided with "Parks and Recreation Day," which had 11,000 children in attendance and waving "thunder sticks" for one of the team's larger crowds of the season. ... With SS Adsdrubal Cabrera reinstated from the disabled list Tuesday, the Rays have a season-low five players on the DL. ... Detroit has hit 30 triples this year, including one from RF J.D. Martinez on Tuesday night, and that total is already more than any Tigers team since 2012. It is the most triples any Tigers team has had before Aug. 1 since 2007, when Detroit had 30 on that date.

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