St. Petersburg, Fla. — C.J. Cron hammered a 2-0 pitch from Jordan Zimmermann into the left-center field stands for a three-run homer in the seventh inning, leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
The Rays swept the three-game series at Tropicana Field and sent the Tigers to their 18th loss in their last 22 games.
Cron’s homer lifted the Rays to their fifth straight win, and five pitchers held the opponent to two runs or fewer for the 12th time in the Rays’ past 15 home games, in which they are 14-1.
“These past couple of weeks have shown you that we can compete with the best teams in baseball,” Rays' Kevin Kiermaier said. “You see a lot of people growing in here, and it starts with our pitching staff and what they’ve done.”
The Rays’ “bullpen-days” formula is “different from what any other team has ever done in the history of the game,” Kiermaier added, “and we’ve found a way to make it work.”
Cron’s 18th homer came off Zimmermann after singles by Kiermaier and Matt Duffy.
It turned a gritty start by Zimmermann (4-1) into a loss. He was cruising along until seventh, when he took the mound with a 2-1 lead, and blamed himself for challenging Cron on a 2-0 pitch.
“My stubbornness came in and I thought ‘Throw the slider now on the (outside) corner, paint it and get this guy out,’” Zimmermann said. “Of course, those are the ones you hang. Three-run homer and we lose the game.”
Cron and Kiermaier each had three hits for the Rays, who have won 14 of 18, and Joey Wendle extended his hitting streak to 11 games with double.
It was only the second multi-hit game of the season for Kiermaier, who came into the game with a .157 average in 30 games.
“It looks like he’s starting to turn the corner a little bit and get his season going,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
“Here we are in mid-July and his numbers are what they are. But look at the wins we’ve had since he’s been back. It’s been pretty telling.”
James McCann’s two-run homer off Matt Andriese in the fourth had given Detroit a 2-1 lead that lasted until Cron’s homer. It was McCann’s sixth homer of the season.
The Tigers, who struck out 14 times against five Tampa Bay pitchers, have lost four straight.
Rookie left-hander Ryan Yarbrough (8-4) got the win after giving up one hit in three innings of relief. Sergio Romo pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 16 opportunities.
Zimmermann gave up four runs and 11 hits in 6.2 innings, striking out five. He threw a season-high 105 pitches.