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Published: Sunday, 7/1/2012

Smyly pitches 5 solid innings, Tigers beat Rays

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, left, and first baseman Prince Fielder celebrate their 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays following a baseball game, Sunday. Detroit Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, left, and first baseman Prince Fielder celebrate their 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays following a baseball game, Sunday.
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers are headed home from a long road trip feeling a little better about themselves.

Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson drove in runs Sunday, helping the Tigers pull away from a sixth-inning tie to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 and end a 10-day trek in the same position they started one game under .500 and hoping they're on the verge of getting over the hump.

The Tigers won three of four from the struggling Rays to finish the trip 5-5 after losing two of three against both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers.

"That's a good sign for us. We battled on this road trip," Jackson said. "That just says a lot about the team. Just coming out of the funk a little bit."

Left-hander Drew Smyly (3-3) pitched five solid innings, allowing three runs and three hits to get his first win since May 25. The rookie walked one and struck out four.

Five different players drove in runs for the Tigers, and four relievers combined to limit the Rays to two hits over four scoreless innings.

"A good way to end it. A long road trip and we come out of it OK," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

"Wins are golden. They're hard to get. We found that out all year long, so far," Leyland added. "To close it out with three out of four here is pretty tough to do."

Tampa Bay, which didn't have a hit until the fifth inning, has dropped six of its last seven games to fall a season-high 7 1-2 games behind first-place New York in the AL East. The Yankees come to Tropicana Field to begin a three-game series on Monday.

"It's been a really tough last couple weeks, and we need to turn it around," Tampa Bay's Ben Zobrist said. "The Yankees coming in, that's a perfect time to do it."

Jackson snapped a 3-all tie with a RBI single off Alex Cobb (3-5). Fielder, voted as the starting first baseman for the AL All-Star team, singled off Jake McGee to make it 5-3 after the Tampa Bay reliever walked All-Star Miguel Cabrera intentionally with a runner on second base.

Ryan Raburn had a RBI single for Detroit in the fourth. Delmon Young and Alex Avila delivered sacrifice flies in the fifth off Cobb, who allowed five runs and eight hits in 5 1-3 innings.

"All you can do is go out there, prepare yourself to play hard. Play hard, see what happens," Fielder said. "When you have talent, talent usually comes through, with hard work."

The Rays led 1-0 despite not having a hit through three innings. Desmond Jennings drew a leadoff walk in the first, stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on B.J. Upton's sacrifice fly. The Tigers tied it in the fourth on Raburn's RBI single, but wasted an opportunity to take control of the game.

Cobb kept the Rays in the game by regrouping after Raburn's hit to work out of a bases-loaded jam, getting Don Kelly to hit into a force play at the plate, striking out Ramon Santiago and coaxing Jackson to ground into a force. The Tampa Bay starter wasn't as fortunate when the Tigers loaded the bases with no outs again in the fifth.

Young's sacrifice fly snapped a 1-1 tie and Avila's made it 3-1.

The Rays finally broke through against Smyly for two runs in the fifth. Zobrist doubled down the left-field line for the first hit off the left-hander and scored on Hideki Matsui's one-out single. Molina followed with his run-scoring double for a short-lived 3-3 tie.

Relievers Brayan Villarreal, Phil Coke, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde teamed to shut down the Rays over the final four innings. Jose Valverde worked a perfect ninth for his 15th save in 18 opportunities.

"It was a great team win," Smyly said. "I only went five innings, but our bullpen did an absolutely tremendous job. They didn't give up a run. They just shut the door. As a starting pitcher, when you give the ball to them, you've got a good feeling."

Notes: Fielder and Cabrera are joined on the All-Star team by teammate Justin Verlander. David Price and Fernando Rodney are Tampa Bay's All-Star selections. It's the third straight selection for Price and the third consecutive year the Rays have sent two pitchers to the . ... Price, who left Friday night's start against the Tigers after seven innings because of lower back tightness, threw a bullpen session. He expects to make his next scheduled start on Wednesday against the Yankees.



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