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Tigers fall to Rays in Tampa

Geoff Robinson, Special the The Detroit News
Catcher Alex Avila #13 of the Tigers runs down John Jaso #28 of the Rays off of a runner's fielder's choice to end the first inning.

FINAL: Rays 5, Tigers 2

There's only so many ways to lose a baseball game. Turns out, the Tigers are trying to check them all off their list in one season.

The Rays, struggling on offense entering this game, used two home runs from their number nine hitter Curt Casali en route to a win over the struggling boys from Motown.

Casali's partner in crime was starter Nathan Karns, who held the Tigers to just one hit through six innings. After giving up a solo shot to Yoenis Cespedes in the seventh and a single to Victor Martinez, he was pulled from the game having thrown just 71 pitches.

In the ninth, J.D. Martinez struck out swinging, and Nick Castellanos struck out looking for the first two outs. Alex Avila drew a four-pitch walk from Rays reliever Brad Boxberger, but Jose Iglesias grounded out to end the inning.

The sobering reality that this is just not going to be their year is starting to sink in for the Tigers. They can't win series, and they can't string together back-to-back wins. It's all gone downhill very fast since the All-Star break. Short of big, emotional boosts and wins from David Price and Justin Verlander over the next two nights, the Tigers appear to be heading towards a fire sale later this week.

Bottom 8th: Rays 5, Tigers 2

Curt Casali, the Rays number nine hitter, just hit his second home run of the night. This time, it was a two-run shot with two outs off of Bruce Rondon to give his team a little insurance heading into the ninth inning.

After Steven Souza worked Rondon for a walk, Jake Elmore laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Souza into scoring position. After a lengthy battle with Tim Beckham, Rondon got the Rays number eight hitter to go down swinging at a ball in the dirt.

Once again, the bullpen has imploded. Rondon looked like he was going to work himself out of a leadoff walk, but he left a pitch in Casali's happy zone, and that ball was hit a mile high before coming down just inside the foul pole.

Top 8th: Rays 3, Tigers 2

Ian Kinsler battled against Rays reliever Jake McGee, and he was able to stroke a two-out single to left field on a full count and bring the tying run to the plate in the form of Yoenis Cespedes.

While Cespedes couldn't produce the magic that he did in his last at-bat, he did the next best thing, bringing home Kinsler with a soft single of his own to left field over the shoulder of Rays shortstop Tim Beckham.

Next up to the dish was the dangerous Victor Martinez, but McGee rebounded and kept his team ahead striking out the Tigers slugger.

Bottom 7th: Rays 3, Tigers 1

Evan Longoria ripped a single to left field off of Tigers reliever Alex Wilson, but that was all the Rays would get as Wilson did what he's done all year and turned in a stellar performance.

Wilson got James Loney to fly out to left field before getting Logan Forsythe to to ground into an inning-ending double.

Top 7th: Rays 3, Tigers 1

Well, that came from nowhere.

After being dominated by Rays rookie Nathan Karns for six innings, Yoenis Cespedes drilled a leadoff home run to deep left field to put the Tigers on the board.

Cespedes just turned on a fastball on the inside part of the plate. He absolutely crushed it. It was a no-doubter.

Victor Martinez singled for the second time tonight off of Karns, and that ended the youngster's night. He must be on a strict pitch limit because he threw just 71 pitches, and gave up just three hits in the process.

J.D. Martinez came to the plate to face Rays reliever Kevin Jepsen. Just one big swing away from tying a game that looked all but lost moments earlier, Martinez grounded into what appeared to be a tailor-made double play. But he hustled down the line and beat the throw.

Nick Castellanos couldn't pick up the slack, striking out swinging at a ball in the dirt.

Alex Avila worked a walk from Jepsen, who kept missing low with his mid-90s fastball. With men on first and second, Jose Iglesias flied out to left field to end the inning.

Bottom 6th: Rays 3, Tigers 0

Anibal Sanchez came back out for the sixth inning. He struck out Kevin Kiermaier for his sixth K of the night, and then was promptly removed from the game by Brad Ausmus.

Ausmus brought in Al Alburquerque, which begs the question of why pitch Sanchez at all in the sixth inning if you're going to replace him with another right-handed pitcher when he does a good job? Sanchez was at 105 pitches entering the inning, finishing at 113 for the night. Common sense would say just don't bring him back out if you're going to pull him after striking a guy out. But hey, that's why Ausmus makes the big bucks. He knows better than the rest of us.

Alburquerque gave up a double to Tim Beckham and a single to Curt Casali, putting runners on the corners for the Rays. Alburquerque was promptly pulled.

Ian Krol came on and got the pinch-hitting Joey Butler to strikeout. Having to face another pinch hitter, Krol came through, getting Brandon Guyer to fly out to right field.

Top 6th: Rays 3, Tigers 0

Tim Beckham flashed some skill when barehanded a ball off the turf to throw out Andrew Romine at first base after the Tigers first baseman hit one off of Rays pitcher Nathan Karns.

Anthony Gose grounded out back to Karns, and Ian Kinsler flew out down the right field foul line.

Karns is still sitting pretty at 66 pitches through six innings. The Rays had some action in the bullpen despite the fact that Karns has given up just one hit and his pitch count is in great shape. Maybe someone's arm just fell asleep and he needed a good stretch.

Bottom 5th: Rays 3, Tigers 0

Anibal Sanchez picked up his fifth strikeout of the night, but that was only after allowing back-to-back two-out singles that allowed the Rays to add another run to their lead.

David DeJesus reached base on a broken-bat infield single down the third baseline. He scored after a James Loney single moved him up to second base, and a Logan Forsythe single brought him home just ahead of a terrific throw to the plate from Yoenis Cespedes.

Sanchez struck out Steven Souza to end the inning, but he's probably done for the night at 105 pitches. It was a somewhat depressing start from one of the Tigers better arms.

Top 5th: Rays 2, Tigers 0

Different inning. Same story.

Nathan Karns is just cruising through the Tigers lineup.

After churning out quick and easy outs through the first four innings, Karns showed why he leads all rookie pitchers in strikeouts, as he got Alex Avila and Jose Iglesias to both go down swinging. Those were Karns' second and third Ks of the game. The Tigers just can't seem to get a beat on what the rookie is doing out there. They still have just one hit, and Karns has thrown just 52 pitches through five innings.

Bottom 4th: Rays 2, Tigers 0

Anibal Sanchez struck out Logan Forsythe to leadoff the inning, but that's where the good news ends.

Sanchez gave up back-to-back doubles to Steven Souza and Kevin Kiermaier as the Rays took a 2-0 lead.

Sanchez was able to strand Kiermaier at second with back-to-back strikeouts, but his pitch count is getting up there (84) and he just doesn't look good on the mound. The fact that he's given up just two runs through three innings is nothing short of astonishing when you consider the control problems he's had.

Top 4th: Rays 1, Tigers 0

Nathan Karns retired the first 11 Tigers hitters of the game, but Victor Martinez notched a two-out single to right field to break the streak.

That didn't seem to bother Karns too much, however, as he got J.D. Martinez to foul out on the first pitch he saw to end the inning.

OK. So there's not going to be a perfect game. Thing is, Nathan Karns is still making the Tigers look laughably bad at the plate right now. He's thrown just 40 pitches to get through four innings. If that keeps up, he's going to be around all night long.

Evan Longoria made a spectacular play on a hot-shot down the third base line off the bat of Ian Kinsler, and Yoenis Cespedes grounded out for the first two outs of the inning.

Bottom 3rd: Rays 1, Tigers 0

Walks and singles are one thing. Home runs are an entirely different beast.

After struggling wit his control through the first three innings, yet holding the Rays at bay, Anibal Sanchez gave up a home run to Tampa's number nine hitter, Curt Casali.

Evan Longoria doubled to deep left-center field with two outs, and even though Sanchez picked up his first strikeout of the night on James Loney, he just can't find a groove out on the mound tonight.

When your team is struggling and you're supposed to be a top-level starter, you just can't give up big flies to a team's number nine hitter. It's just the Tigers season in a nutshell.

Top 3rd: Tigers 0, Rays 0

Nathan Karns has had no issues with the Tigers lineup the first time through.

The Tigers went down 1-2-3 for the third consecutive inning, and the Rays rookie is working quick and efficiently with very little resistance.

After getting Jose Iglesias to groundout to third base, Karns picked up his first strikeout of the game on Andrew Romine. Anthony Gose lined out to left field to end the inning.

That's just 30 pitches thrown by Karns through three innings. This dude is on cruise control right now.

Bottom 2nd: Tigers 0, Rays 0

Logan Forsythe singled to leadoff the inning and it looked like Anibal Sanchez was going to have to work his way through another tough frame.

Sanchez retired the next three batters in order, though, righting the ship ever so slightly. The pitch count still sits at a lofty 42, and his control is still off a bit. The good news is that the Tigers starter hasn't let these early struggles snowball on him, but the bad news is the Tigers bullpen is probably going to see quite a bit of action tonight.

Top 2nd: Tigers 0, Rays 0

J.D. Martinez flied out to left field, Nick Castellanos grounded out to short, and Alex Avila grounded out back to the pitcher.

That's six up, six down for Nathan Karns, who has thrown just 19 pitches through the first two innings. Yikes.

Bottom 1st: Tigers 0, Rays 0

Anibal Sanchez has struggled with control at times this year, and the first inning tonight was no exception. Luckily, though, he escaped unscathed.

After issuing a leadoff walk to John Jaso, who moved up to second base following a fielder's choice off the bat of David DeJesus, Sanchez threw a wild pitch on ball four to Evan Longoria to put runners on the corners with one out.

After a brief visit to the mound from Tigers trainer Kevin Rand, Sanchez stayed in the game and was able to get James Loney to fly out to shallow right field, keeping Jaso at third.

The Tigers got out of the inning by getting Longoria caught between second and first base, and eventually tagging out Jaso who tried to break for home plate.

Sanchez threw 24 pitches in the first inning.

Top 1st: Tigers 0, Rays 0

Ian Kinsler put a charge into one to leadoff the game, but he came up just shy of a home run to left field off of Tampa starter Nathan Karns.

Yoenis Cespedes flew out to center field, and Victor Martinez grounded out to end the inning.

The Tigers bats, which weren't the problem a week ago, struggled over the weekend in Boston. They need to show up tonight in support of Anibal Sanchez.

Tigers lineup

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B

2. Yoenis Cespedes, LF

3. Victor Martinez, DH

4. J.D. Martinez, RF

5. Nick Castellanos, 3B

6. Alex Avila, C

7. Jose Iglesias, SS

8. Andrew Romine, 1B

9. Anthony Gose, CF

SP: Anibal Sanchez, RHP (10-7, 4.59)

Rays lineup

1. John Jaso, DH

2. David DeJesus, LF

3. Evan Longoria, 3B

4. James Loney, 1B

5. Logan Forsythe, 2B

6. Steven Souza Jr., RF

7. Kevin Kiermaier, CF

8. Tim Beckham, SS

9. Curt Casali, C

SP: Nathan Karns (5-5, 3.47 ERA), RHP