ST PETERSBURG, UNITED STATES // Justin Verlander clinched his 16th win of the season as the Detroit Tigers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Friday night. Verlander tied with the New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia for the American League (AL) lead in victories as Adam Everett hit a tie-breaking RBI single during a three-run ninth for the AL Central leaders. Verlander (16-7) allowed one run and four hits over eight innings. He has won three consecutive starts.
"I'm not worried about 16, I'm worried about one, and that's today," Verlander said. "And even if I didn't get the win today, if we came away with the 'W', I'd be more than happy." The Tigers extended their lead to six games over Minnesota, who lost 5-2 to Cleveland. The Detroit closer Fernando Rodney allowed two runs in the bottom half of the ninth before nailing down his 32nd save.
Carlos Pena hit an RBI single with one out and Evan Longoria drove in another run with a double before pinch-hitter Willy Aybar grounded out with runners on second and third. Rodney, after making 35 pitches, was given a rest yesterday. "I think he was a little more sluggish than normal," his manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm going to give him a day off for sure. He deserves it." "Verlander and [Jeff] Niemann were the key," Leyland added. "They were both brilliant."
His counterpart Joe Maddon felt Niemann should be the rookie of the league after the pitcher, who has a team-best of 12 wins, gave up one run and six hits in seven and two third innings. The Rays, six games behind Boston in the wild card race, have lost six of nine. "I don't know who is better right now," Maddon said. "He's been fantastic." Tigers catcher Gerald Laird helped keep the Rays in check, throwing out two runners attempting to steal second. Tampa lead the majors with 169 stolen bases this season.