ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Brandon Inge struck out in each of his first three at-bats Sunday. Then, one swing changed everything.
Inge hit a grand slam in the ninth inning and the Detroit Tigers picked apart Tampa Bay’s bullpen in a 5-3 victory over the Rays that completed a three-game sweep.
“It’s one of those days where I couldn’t really figure out why I was missing,” Inge said. “I felt like I was taking good swings all day. As long as you can remember that that very last at-bat is going to be one that can make a huge difference in the game, put all of your previous at-bats aside because it’s the last one that’s very important.”
Detroit earned its sixth consecutive win and opened a seven-game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central.
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After Rays starter Wade Davis pitched seven sharp innings in his major league debut, Detroit overcame a 3-1 lead when Tampa Bay used five relievers in the ninth. Inge capped the comeback, connecting with one out against Russ Springer (0-3) for his fifth career slam.
“He did a great job,” Springer said of Davis. “It makes it worse to ruin his first start. It was bad in a couple different ways. It wasn’t that bad of a pitch. It was on the outside corner. I know he’s a hook guy, but on paper he’s supposed to hit the ball to second. He got it.”
Edwin Jackson (12-6) allowed three runs and six hits in eight innings for Detroit. Brandon Lyon pitched the ninth for his third save.
“He gave up that three-spot, but I thought he was tremendous,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Jackson. “That’s what gave us a chance to win the ballgame.”
Evan Longoria hit his career-high 28th homer for the Rays, who have lost eight of 11 and fell seven back of wild card-leading Boston. The 2008 AL Rookie of the Year joined teammate Carlos Peña in reaching 100 RBI, marking the first time two Tampa Bay players have reached that total in the same year.
Davis allowed one run and three hits with nine strikeouts and one walk. Taken in the third round of the 2004 draft, he pitched a day before his 24th birthday.
“Everybody wants to win,” said Davis. “I gave them a chance.”
Davis struck out his first four batters before Aubrey Huff homered to put the Tigers ahead 1-0 in the second. The right-hander then closed out the second with two more strikeouts.