DETROIT — Baseball is a sport where you play the percentages because in a 162-game season it pays off.

“How about those shifts?” Tampa Bay manager Kevin Cash said Saturday after his maneuver worked when Detroit’s Alex Avila grounded out against an overshift to cinch the Rays’ 3-2 victory over the Tigers. “Those seem to work every once a while, don’t they?”

Avila came up with Mikie Mahtook at third with the tying run with two outs after a leadoff single.

Mahtook had alertly moved to third when Tampa Bay shifted for Avila — third baseman Even Longoria moving over the the normal shortstop spot and shortstop Tim Beckham moving from short to the other side of second. The second baseman slid into short right field.

“He’s getting to third regardless because of the positioning,” Cash said of Mahtook being given a stolen base for his advancement. “We felt it was more important at the time to cover more ground toward the pull side.

“But I think that probably shows how much confidence we have in Alex Colome. We’ll give up 90 feet to get to third trusting that if we put the guys in the right spot we’ll can make a play and he’ll make a pitch.

“Alex Avila’s having a tremendous year. Whatever to get him out worked. We haven’t gotten him out many times this year.”

Colome posted his 19th save. He got Avila down 1-2 and then went up and in with a fastball. The Detroit catcher hit it sharply but right at the overshifted Beckham, who threw to first to end the game.

“It was a little in, a little up,” Avila said of the pitch. “If it was down a little bit, maybe I’d stayed through a little bit better and hit a line drive into the gap there. Still hit it hard, just right at ‘em.

“I would say the guy’s been playing there for a hundred years, but he hasn’t.”

Mallex Smith and Daniel Robertson grounded two-out RBI singles to right in the seventh inning to rally the Rays from a one-run deficit and snap a three-game losing streak.

Robertson’s single just trickled off diving Ian Kinsler‘s glove in short right to get Steven Souza Jr. in from third and tie the score 2-2. Souza Jr. drew a walk from Tigers starter Michael Fulmer (6-5) to lead off the seventh and got to third on two groundouts.

Smith welcomed reliever Alex Wilson by grounding a 3-1 pitch to right for a single that scored Robertson, who had gotten to second when Derek Norris chased Fulmer with a line single to left.

Smith had two singles and now has hit safely in all nine games he has played since being recalled from the minors to take over for injured center fielder Kevin Kiermaier.

Jumbo Diaz pitched the seventh for Tampa Bay but gave up a one-out double in the eighth and was relieved by Colome, who got the last five outs.

“We haven’t done that in a while, asked him for a five-out save,” Cash said. “He hadn’t pitched in three days. He wanted to pitch today (Saturday) regardless, I don’t know if he wanted to pitch that much, but he wanted to pitch.”

Miguel Cabrera slammed a first-pitch fastball from Rays starter Chris Archer (5-4) over the right field wall leading off the sixth inning to put the Tigers ahead 2-1.

Archer allowed six hit in six innings, walking one and striking out eight.

Fulmer lasted 6 2/3 innings, allowing six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.

Kinsler ripped a flat 3-2 slider to the left field wall to drive in Andrew Romine, who had singled leading off the fifth for Detroit and gone to second on a groundout to tie the score 1-1.

Robertson’s RBI single to center with one out in the fifth gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. Colby Rasmus doubled to right with one out and Beckham walked to precede Robertson’s first-pitch line single.

NOTES: CF Mallex Smith has four bunt singles in his 18 games with Tampa Bay this season, equaling the rest of the team combined. … Detroit DH Victor Martinez was released from the hospital but will rest and be monitored for an irregular heartbeat for 7-10 days. … The Rays acquired INF Trevor Plouffe, who had been designated for assignment by Oakland, but he won’t report until Monday in Tampa Bay. … Tigers 3B Nicholas Castellanos wasn’t in the starting lineup, manager Brad Ausmus said, because he was 4-for-17 against Rays starter RHP Chris Archer. Castellanos pinch-hit in the eighth inning and stayed in the game.



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