ST. PETERSBURG -- Chris Archer's bid for a perfect game fell short Wednesday afternoon, and so did the Rays' bid to earn a three-game sweep, as the Tigers won, 2-1, at Tropicana Field.
Trailing 1-0 and facing the prospect of an Archer perfect game, the Tigers scored two unearned runs in the seventh after Rays shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera booted what appeared to be a sure double-play ball with one out in the inning. J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos followed with RBI singles to put Detroit up, 2-1.
Tigers starter Justin Verlander retired the first 14 batters he faced before Cabrera connected on an 0-1 pitch with two outs in the fifth to stake the Rays to a 1-0 lead. Verlander allowed one run on four hits while striking out 10 in eight innings to earn his first win of the season.
"Really well-pitched ballgame today on both sides," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Archer was outstanding. Verlander was just as good."
Verlander said teammates jokingly congratulated him on his first win.
"I'm pleased," he said, "because we needed a big win. Obviously, we haven't been playing great baseball. To get a win here and hopefully carry some momentum into Baltimore is big."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Archer overpowering: Archer set a new Rays record by retiring the first 19 batters he faced. Through six innings, the right-hander struck out 10 using just 69 pitches. Jose Iglesias' infield single with one out in the seventh broke Archer's spell. Matt Garza had set the previous club record by retiring the first 18 batters he faced on April 30, 2009, against the Red Sox. Archer allowed no earned runs on three hits and no walks while striking out 11 in seven innings, but he came away with his eighth loss of the year.
"Quite frankly, the only thing going through my mind while watching him pitch the first three or four innings was Kerry Wood's 20-strikeout game," said manager Brad Ausmus, who struck out twice against Wood in that 1998 gem. More >
Kiermaier catch: Archer had faced 16 batters and retired them all when James McCann launched a drive to deep center field that appeared as though it would drop. But Kevin Kiermaier somehow managed to haul in the shot with a leaping grab before hitting the wall. Archer could not contain his excitement and tipped his cap to Kiermaier. More >
J.D. adjusts on Archer: Archer made Martinez, arguably the most dynamic hitter in the Tigers' current lineup, look silly his first two times up, especially on sliders. Martinez got another slider to start off his seventh-inning at-bat and grounded it through the left side for a game-tying RBI single to spur the go-ahead rally. Verlander took it from there.
"You've got your shutdown innings, and you've got your this-is-the-game innings," Verlander said. "And that was the thought process."
McCannon: Because Verlander's only blemish through six innings was Cabrera's homer, he didn't have to pitch with a runner on until Steven Souza Jr. singled leading off the seventh. Five pitches later, rookie catcher McCann erased Souza from the basepaths by throwing him out at second, giving Verlander an out that loomed large after back-to-back singles from James Loney and Logan Forsythe.
"Very much vintage Verlander." -- Cash, on Verlander's effort
"I've been telling you guys I've been feeling better on the mound, and it was nice to pitch well two starts in a row." -- Verlander
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Verlander fanned 10 Rays batters for his first double-digit strikeout game in two years. He hadn't done so in a game without walking a batter since Sept. 24, 2010, the year before he won the American League MVP Award.
The loss was the sixth in franchise history without allowing an earned run. All have come in the Rays era (2008 and later). They also did it earlier this season at Boston (April 21).
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: Detroit heads to Baltimore for a four-game series against the Orioles, beginning with a 7:05 p.m. ET start Thursday at Camden Yards. Alfredo Simon (9-6, 4.46 ERA) will make his first appearance against his former team after spending parts of four seasons in Baltimore as a reliever and a starter.
Rays: Erasmo Ramirez (8-4, 3.74 ERA) will start against the Red Sox at 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday at Fenway Park after allowing five earned runs in his previous outing against the Orioles on Saturday. He threw 34 pitches in the third inning of that outing -- one of those turned into a Chris Davis grand slam -- but he threw 13 pitches or fewer in his other 6 1/3 innings. He has faced 61 batters since last issuing a walk.