Twice, Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera with a runner on second, giving Prince Fielder a chance to break the game open with a big hit.
The move worked both times - and it was the Rays who finally ended a scoreless deadlock with three runs in the ninth inning.
Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings each drove in a run in Tampa Bay's last at-bat, and the Rays beat the Detroit Tigers 3-0 on Wednesday night.
In the sixth and the eighth innings, the Rays gave Cabrera a pass with two out, and each time, Fielder struck out with runners on first and second to end the inning.
"There's probably times you're going to roll the dice and let the pitcher pitch to Cabrera," Maddon said. "Everything depends on the pitcher. It's not a generic moment. There's a lot of different things to be read into that moment - your pitcher, how he reacts to left-handed hitters, all that kind of stuff is important."
Coming into the game, Fielder was 8 of 9 with a walk and 10 RBIs in his previous 10 plate appearances following walks by Cabrera.
Alex Cobb allowed five hits in 7 2-3 innings for Tampa Bay, and Joel Peralta (1-2) fanned Fielder to end the eighth. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 12th save in 17 chances.
Sam Fuld started the ninth with a bunt single, eluding Fielder's tag and diving into first base. Fuld went to third on Ben Zobrist's single, and Joyce hit a sacrifice fly off Doug Fister (5-3) to drive in the first run, with Zobrist advancing to second on the throw to the plate.
Longoria's single made it 2-0 and chased Fister. Jennings added another insurance run with a run-scoring triple off Drew Smyly.
Fister allowed three runs and seven hits in 8 1-3 innings. Fister pitched seven scoreless innings in his previous start against Pittsburgh, but the Tigers were shut out in that game, too.
"This is definitely a tough loss to swallow, especially to have it happen to Doug for the second game in a row," Detroit catcher Alex Avila said. "There always seems to be one guy who takes the brunt of these stretches - we go a bunch of games where we can't get him any runs - and Doug is getting that right now."
Hitting rallies were few and far between, especially after both teams wasted good chances to score in the third.
The Rays had runners on first and third with one out when Fielder made a diving stop on Fuld's grounder. Fielder threw home to Avila, catching Jose Lobaton in a rundown. Avila ran Lobaton back to third before tagging him and Yunel Escobar, who was trying to come all the way around from first.
"Your idea there is to get in a rundown and permit the runner to get to third base," Maddon said. "Neither one really had a good moment right there."
Both runners were called out, and the unusual double play ended that threat. But the Tigers couldn't capitalize on their own first-and-third, one-out situation in the bottom of the inning. Avisail Garcia was caught trying to steal second, and Andy Dirks grounded out.
Fielder extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a fourth-inning single, and he ended the Tampa Bay seventh with an unassisted double play when he caught James Loney's line drive and doubled Longoria off first.
Cobb was terrific in his first outing since May 26. The right-hander missed a start because of a cut finger on his throwing hand.
The Tigers could barely hit the ball out of the infield early against Cobb, who has allowed more than three earned runs only once in 11 starts this year.
"When you're given nine days off by the team, you kind of have to go out there and eat up some innings," Cobb said. "It was a hard-fought game the whole way. Doug Fister threw a great game against us, and it was a battle. Those games are a lot of fun to be a part of."
Rays left fielder Kelly Johnson was a late scratch because of back tightness. Maddon said he expected Johnson to be ready to play Thursday.
NOTES: Maddon said ace David Price (strained left triceps) might be ready to throw off a mound around the time the team returns home for a series with Baltimore that starts Friday. ... Detroit RHP Max Scherzer (7-0) will take the mound Thursday against Tampa Bay RHP Roberto Hernandez (3-5) in the finale of this three-game series.
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