Miner, Tigers polish off Rays

Miner, Tigers polish off Rays

DETROIT -- Zach Miner threw 32 pitches in the first inning of his third career start, and Tampa Bay scored two runs against the righty in the process, but Miner settled down and Detroit came from behind for a 6-2 win on Thursday.

"He needs to trust his stuff and attack the strike zone more," manager Jim Leyland said. "He can get away with some of those pitches in Triple-A, but up here, they lay off them. He's getting more comfortable with each start. He's a legit Major League pitcher."

Aubrey Huff's RBI single, preceded by Jorge Cantu's RBI groundout, put the Rays up, 2-0.

Two innings later, Chris Shelton and Brandon Inge recorded consecutive extra-base hits off starter Casey Fossum. Inge's triple scored Shelton and Vance Wilson tied the contest with an RBI groundout.

Inge's 2-for-3 performance on Thursday, combined with his 2-for-4 showing on Tuesday, gave the third baseman his first pair of multi-hit games in a series since Detroit opened the season at Kansas City on April 3 and 5. Inge finished that short series with a .444 batting average. Since that time, his average had dropped more than 200 points, twice falling to a season-low .211.

"Today was one of the best games that Inge has had all year for me," Leyland said. "He hit the ball all over the ballpark. He swung the bat extremely well. He drove the ball the opposite way. He drove the ball to center field. I was real happy with him today. I think that's the best he's looked in a long time, talking about consistent at-bats throughout the game."

Marcus Thames and Magglio Ordonez put the go-ahead run on second with back-to-back singles to begin the bottom of the fourth, and Carlos Guillen's 18th double plated Thames.

Shelton's walk, combined with the other two-thirds of Thursday's triumvirate, teamed up once again as Inge and Wilson's respective sacrifice fly and single scored the second and third runs of the inning for a 5-2 Detroit lead.

Meanwhile, the Tigers' starter found a better rhythm, spreading 108 pitches over seven innings. Miner retired all three batters he saw in the third, fifth and seventh.

"It was a close game and we didn't want to give them anything," Miner said. "They got a couple of knocks and found holes. I wasn't making that bad of pitches. I left a couple of balls up ahead in the count, but I'm glad I settled down and saved the bullpen a little bit today."

While Miner let the bullpen observe for seven innings, Wilson supported his young batterymate behind the plate.

"Guys like Pudge and Vance can nurse a guy that really doesn't know the hitters that well. That's a big advantage," Leyland said. "[Young pitchers] have got to get through the rough spots. The best part about it is that [Vance] and Pudge have a great rapport and mutual respect for one another. I think Vance Wilson has done a tremendous job for us."

Early on, especially after Wednesday's extra-inning game, Leyland worried that it might be another long day for the pitching staff.

"We were sweating about the pitch count," Leyland said. "He [Miner] threw so many early, and then really didn't throw hardly any pitches after that."

As Miner moved through the opening frames, he also progressed, giving the offense opportunities to keep running efficiently.

"I knew I had a lot of pitches, and I was really concentrating on trying to get some quick outs, get off the field and get the offense out there," Miner said. "They were swinging the bats good, and I wanted to try and keep the momentum going."

Winners of six of its last eight games, Detroit now heads to Chicago to play the Cubs, while Tampa Bay goes to Philadelphia. The Tigers return home next Friday to host St. Louis.

Sam Miller is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.