Tigers show hustle and grit, sweep Rays

July 3, 2016 GMT

St. Petersburg, Fla. – Sometimes you hammer the opponent. Sometimes you hush them with good pitching. And then there are other times when you beat them with hustle and grit.

The Tigers used the latter to extend their winning streak to six Sunday, sweeping the Rays with a 5-1 victory. It was the Tigers’ first-ever four-game sweep at Tropicana Field.

It was the hustle and grit of Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler that triggered a game-changing three-run outburst in the eighth inning. Kinsler led off with a double and with one out, the Rays walked Miguel Cabrera intentionally.

Rays manager Kevin Cash then brought in left-hander Xavier Cedeno to force switch-hitting Martinez to bat right-handed. Martinez hit a slow grounder to second, which looked like an inning-ending double play.

But Martinez, hampered by soreness in his knees, hustled out of the box and beat the relay throw. And Kinsler never stopped running. He scored all the way from second base to tie the game.

Nick Castellanos followed with a single and then Justin Upton, who has struggled most of the season, drilled a line drive to the gap in left-center. Two runs scored and the Tigers’ dugout erupted.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, Rays 1

Kinsler then put himself in the record books in the top of the ninth. He launched his 16th home run of the season and 200th of his career, hitting the catwalk in left field. He becomes the seventh fastest player, and 40th overall, to achieve 200 homers, 200 stolen bases, 1,600 hits and 1,000 runs in Major League history.

Until that point, it looked like the Tigers might waste Mike Pelfrey’s most efficient start of the season. His fastball was popping at 94-96 mph. He was commanding his sinker and split-fingered pitch, too. He was only at 65 pitches through six innings.

He got 10 ground ball outs, always an indication that his stuff was crisp.

The only blemish came in the fifth inning. Nick Franklin singled with one out and former Tigers farmhand Curt Casali brought him home with a double into the right-field corner.

He got himself in trouble in the seventh. With one out, Corey Dickerson laced a 95-mph fastball off the wall in left, which missed being a home run by a couple of feet. Pelfrey walked the next two hitters to load the bases.

Bruce Rondon was summoned and he cleaned up the mess in a hurry. He struck out Logan Forsythe with a nasty slider and got Brad Miller to fly out to left.

The Tigers played some stellar defense behind Pelfrey, as well. In the third inning, Castellanos made a diving catch on a rocket hit by Franklin. Kinsler robbed the next hitter, Casali, with a quick dive to his right and a strong throw to first.

In the sixth, Jose Iglesias took a hit away from Evan Longoria with a diving play in the hole. Then Steven Moya ended the inning by making an improbable shoestring catch in right field, rolling on the ground, and then firing the ball back to first to double up Logan Morrison.

Rondon got the win. Shane Greene pitched an impressive eighth, striking out both Morrison and Brandon Guyer. Kyle Ryan finished it up with a scoreless ninth.

Twitter @cmccosky