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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Justin Verlander became the first 19-game winner in the majors, Alex Avila hit his 15th homer and the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Monday night.
Verlander (19-5) won his seventh consecutive start, giving up one run and three hits in seven innings. The 19 wins match his career high, set in 2009.
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the second when Avila hit a two-run shot off Jeff Niemann (8-5). The All-Star catcher is 25 for 59 (.424) with five homers and 14 RBIs this month.
Niemann, who was 7-0 in his 10 previous start, allowed four runs and six hits over 7 1-3 innings.
Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton left with a right shoulder strain after running intothe wall on Delmon Young’s eighth-inning double.