Rays' win streak snapped on Bedard's rocky night
Bats go quiet as Tigers tee off in opening frame in series opener
DETROIT -- Rays manager Joe Maddon theorized before Thursday night's game against the Tigers that his starter, Erik Bedard, could survive throwing only curveballs.
It didn't matter what he threw Thursday night at Comerica Park. Detroit hit it. By the time he retired his first batter, Bedard had allowed a pair of two-run homers.
Before the inning was through, Torii Hunter hit a solo shot off a Bedard curveball. The first-place Tigers took the series opener, 8-1, snapping Tampa Bay's season-long five-game winning streak.
Bedard's night was over after just two innings, over which he allowed six runs off eight hits. It marked his shortest start since April 15, 2013, when he was chased after recording just one out.
"Nothing was really there for him, and they just jumped all over it," Maddon said. "Everything they hit was right on the screws.
"They didn't miss the mistakes."
After the first home run, off the bat of Ian Kinsler, Maddon still liked his team's chances. But the second one, by Victor Martinez, was a crushing blow. The third home run of the inning put the final nail in the coffin.
"The three home runs, it certainly doesn't guarantee a win, but you feel good about it when you put that number of runs up early and then back it up again a few more times," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
As much as Maddon loves Bedard's curveball, so too did the Tigers on Thursday night. The first one he threw went for a single off the bat of Austin Jackson. Bedard hung the next one and it left the yard, courtesy of Hunter.
"I just didn't have it today," he said. "I just got behind and they hit pitches."
Big innings like Detroit's first have been the Achilles' heel for a Tampa Bay offense that has looked lethargic at times this season. Compounding matters was Detroit starter Max Scherzer, who pitched eight innings of two-hit ball, giving the Rays their lowest hit total of the season.
"It's hard to beat that guy here, under those circumstances," Maddon said.
But Tampa Bay struck first after Desmond Jennings led off the game with a double and later scored on an Evan Longoria sacrifice fly. From that point on, the Rays failed to get anything going against Scherzer, who struck out seven.
Two hard-hit liners in the top of the third that seemed destined to be hits found the gloves of Tigers. Even though the Rays mustered just two hits in the loss, none came beyond the fourth inning, Maddon said he liked many of the at-bats his team had off Scherzer. Too many balls were simply hit right at fielders.
Vince Belnome made his Major League debut for the Rays and went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts.
Following Longoria's RBI, Scherzer retired 22 of the next 23 batters he faced, and Tampa Bay didn't put a runner in scoring position for the remainder of the night.
Cesar Ramos provided 3 1/3 innings of mop-up duty, but Detroit hit him as well, tacking on two more runs.
Still, Ramos managed to save most of the bullpen despite a significant distraction -- his wife, Melanie, is pregnant and "ready to pop at any time."
"It's always in the back of your mind," he said. "You've always got to be able to put stuff aside. … Once I was done, I came up here and the first thing I did was check my phone. We play a game and that's real life.
"But you learn to put things aside."
Despite the loss, a jarring return to Earth for the Rays who had been playing their best baseball of the season, there was no panic evident on Maddon's face after the game. His club now sits 10 games back of first-place Toronto in the American League East.
"We've been playing well. We're going to play well again tomorrow night," Maddon said. "We weren't going to win the rest of our games. I was pretty sure of that."