ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) – One of Justin Verlander’s best starts of the season got away from the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night.
Yunel Escobar had an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning as the Tampa Bay Rays came back for a 4-3 victory over the Tigers.
But it was Fernando Rodney’s brushback of Miguel Cabrera in the top of the 10th that had the Tigers fuming. Cabrera hollered from the Detroit dugout after striking out on a changeup after Rodney (3-2) came high and inside on a 1-2 pitch.
Cabrera did not want to comment after the game, saying only that “We’ve got to play tomorrow” while looking at his cell phone. But manager Jim Leyland had plenty to say.
“I’m not saying he was throwing at him; I’m not saying that at all, but if you’re going to throw inside, you’ve got to be careful you’re not in the head area,” Leyland said.
“If you want to run the ball inside, I don’t blame him. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s part of the art of pitching. Pitchers have to do that. But up there is not acceptable and there’s a price to pay for that.”
Leyland, who managed Rodney for parts of four seasons in Detroit, said he would not buy the explanation that the pitch had gotten away from the Rays’ closer.
“He’s pitched long enough that they don’t get away up there in that area,” Leyland said.
Countered Rodney: “You have to pitch inside sometimes. If you’re a pitcher you have to protect the strike zone. You have to pitch inside, outside, everywhere.”
James Loney had a one-out single off Bruce Rondon (0-1). Pinch-runner Sam Fuld went to second on Wil Myers’ single, and after Luke Scott struck out, both runners advanced on a wild pitch.
Escobar won it for the Rays with a line drive that sailed over the head of center fielder Austin Jackson.
It was Rondon’s first major league decision and only the Rays’ fifth win in their last 20 games against the Tigers.
Detroit took a 3-0 lead behind Verlander in the third inning, but Scott tied it at 3 on a solo homer with one out in the eighth.
“It was a changeup that just didn’t do what I needed it to do,” explained Verlander, who is winless in his last four starts. “It got a little too much of the plate and didn’t have much death to it. He put a good swing on it.”
Verlander pitched eight innings and threw 119 pitches, giving up nine hits and four walks while striking out four.
Austin Jackson hit an opposite-field solo homer to right, and Jhonny Peralta had a two-run single off Chris Archer that put the Tigers ahead 3-0 in the third.
Archer gave up three runs, five hits, three walks and had three strikeouts in five innings.
Cabrera went 1 for 4 with a walk, but his major league-leading batting average dropped two points to .375. He has a 14-game hitting streak.
“I’m not going to make a big deal about it, it’s over with,” said Leyland. “We lost a tough game. They earned the win, they got the win and OK, more power to them. But throwing in that area is not acceptable and somebody pays the price for that throughout baseball. That’s just the away baseball is. That’s not free. There’s no free lunch.”
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