DETROIT -- Rajai Davis' second home run of the game broke a tie in the seventh inning, sending the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Rays in a Labor Day matinee at Comerica Park.
On a sweltering Michigan afternoon to mark the unofficial end of summer, Tampa Bay and Detroit combined for five home runs, all of them to left field. Two of them came from Davis, marking his first two-homer game since May 18, 2012, as a Blue Jay against the Mets. His first homer put the Tigers on the scoreboard with a line drive over the left-field fence, driving in Anthony Gose after a leadoff double in the third.
Four innings later, Davis faced reliever Brandon Gomes (2-5) with a 4-4 score and lofted a ball that carried over the fence and into the Tigers' bullpen. With that, he matched his home-run output from the previous two months combined.
Al Alburquerque (4-1) picked up the victory with a scoreless seventh inning. The Rays loaded the bases in the ninth with two walks and a single, but Tigers closer Bruce Rondon escaped with his fourth save thanks to a ranging play from Dixon Machado at shortstop, his throw to second caught by Ian Kinsler in a sliding play for the game-endng force out.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Woo pig sooie: Although James McCann and Drew Smyly both came up through the University of Arkansas and the Tigers' farm system, they hadn't played in the same game in the Majors until Monday, when they were opponents. McCann got the best of the matchup by jumping a first-pitch cutter and sending it out for his seventh home run of the year and a short-lived 4-2 lead.
"He wasn't very happy about the single," McCann said, referring to his previous hit. "I haven't talked to him since the home run." More >
Arencibia hits bricks: Tampa Bay catcher J.P. Arencibia's mammoth home run in the fifth inning reached a part of Comerica Park few others have. The solo blast was calculated to travel 464 feet, per Statcast™, and it landed at the base of the Tigers Wall of Fame in left-center. It marks the longest home run hit by a Ray this season.
"He's been hitting a lot of home runs," said Rays manager Kevin Cash. "It's exciting, but it'd be more exciting if they were game-winners." More >
What a relief: The much-scrutinized Tigers bullpen proved to be the difference in a holiday battle of two laboring starters. Rookie Drew VerHagen inherited a two-on, one-out jam in the fifth inning with a 4-4 score and induced back-to-back groundouts before escaping trouble again in the sixth. Alburquerque, Alex Wilson, Blaine Hardy and Rondon held the Rays there, earning the Tigers' bullpen its first win since Neftali Feliz picked up a victory against the Cubs at Wrigley on Aug. 19.
"Honestly, our bullpen did a great job," Kinsler said. "Any time you can have the bullpen come out and not give up any runs, you have a pretty good chance to win the game."
"Sometimes, you can put it on not getting the big hit; sometimes it's not making the big pitch. I don't think it's one glaring need of anything. Ultimately, we tie the game back, and then we give up two more. We do that same thing again, and we give up the solo homer. Those are deflating innings." -- Cash, on his club losing another one-run game
"We took the lead, we gave it up, we took the lead, we gave it up, we got the lead again and we didn't give it away. And that's what baseball's about." -- Kinsler, on the comeback win
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Tigers' two home runs off Smyly raised his season total to nine in 42 2/3 innings, but they were his first all season with runners on base. His previous 10 home runs had been solo shots dating back to Martin Prado's two-run homer off him last Aug. 16.
The Rays challenged the very last play of the game, an apparent fielder's choice off the bat of Logan Forsythe with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth. Shortstop Machado's throw to second base pulled Kinsler off the bag, but umpire Tim Timmons ruled Kinsler's foot had been on the base as the catch was made. A 38-second review confirmed the call, and Detroit's victory.
"It's a very odd scene," Cash said. "I'm sitting out there, and half their dugout is out there shaking hands. You don't want to get caught in the crossfire." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Rays: On Tuesday night at Comerica Park, Erasmo Ramirez will make his first career start against the Tigers. The right-hander hasn't lasted five full innings in either of his last two starts, and home runs have become an issue -- he has allowed 10 over his last 12 appearances after yielding just four over his first 17 starts.
Tigers:Matt Boyd, who has surrendered 11 runs on 14 hits over seven innings in his last two starts at Toronto and Kansas City, will look for better fortunes at home when he takes the mound for the middle game of the series. Boyd has two quality starts in as many tries at Comerica Park.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.