ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Detroit Tigers are happy to get away from Tropicana Field, as more defensive breakdowns helped the Tampa Bay Rays to an easy 8-1 win behind spot starter Erasmo Ramirez on Thursday afternoon.
Tampa Bay (9-8) moved Ramirez (2-0) out of the bullpen to fill in for the injured Jake Odorizzi, and after allowing a leadoff home run to Ian Kinsler, Ramirez held the Tigers (8-7) to one hit and no runs for the rest of his five-inning, 66-pitch outing.
The Rays have won six straight at home, their longest home streak in nearly two years. The series sweep was Tampa Bay's first against the Tigers since 2010. Steven Souza finished a single short of the cycle, going 3-for-5 with three RBIs and three runs scored.
"I'm just trying to play free -- I can really overthink things and put a lot of pressure on myself," Souza said. "I just thank God for the ability to play free right now. ... We're playing a lot cleaner games at home so far."
Detroit was held to four hits on Tuesday and mustered only four on Thursday.
The Rays again got help from Detroit's struggling defense, and it started with the very first batter. Souza's line drive to right field was misplayed by Tyler Collins for a double, and Souza scored to make it 1-1 on a two-out throwing error by Dixon Machado, filling in for an injured Jose Iglesias at shortstop.
"Defense killed us this series," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I'll be honest: This was the worst defensive series I've seen the Detroit Tigers play since I've been here. It'll stop. Part of it is probably attributed to the roof. It was awful. It cost us pitches, it cost us runs and it cost us games."
Tampa Bay got three runs in the second. Again Collins misplayed a ball hit by Souza for a two-out, two-run triple, and Kevin Kiermaier followed with an RBI single to make it 4-1. The Rays tagged Detroit starter Daniel Norris (1-1) for five hits in the second inning alone.
Another Tigers miscue came in the fifth. Norris and Alex Avila converged on a pop foul and nearly collided, allowing the ball to drop. Later in that at-bat, Tim Beckham got an RBI groundout for a 5-1 lead.
The Rays added three solo home runs off the Tigers' bullpen. Kiermaier hit his first home run of the season in the seventh. Rookie Daniel Robertson got his first career home run in the eighth and Souza hit his third homer of the season in that same inning.
Ramirez bounced back nicely after one bad pitch in the first, and was pleased he was able to help the team with five solid innings to ease the burden on the rest of the bullpen.
"No matter what the situation, you have to continue your routine, what worked for you," he said. "You have nothing to change. Like being in the bullpen, you have to attack the hitters and don't give them the chance to realize what you think in that moment."
Detroit opened the season 6-2 but is 2-5 since, including a sweep at the hands of a Rays team it had beaten six straight times entering the season. The Tigers now play three games at the Twins, while the Rays play host to the Astros for three, buoyed by a 8-2 home record.
"It was just misplays. Quite frankly, it's got to get better," Ausmus said. "If it doesn't get better, there will be changes. ... These are big-league players. They should be able to make these type of plays. There are occasions where the roof comes in play ... but we can't make that many mistakes."
NOTES: The Tigers played without two starters injured on the basepaths earlier in this series. OF Justin Upton, who bruised his right wrist on a play Tuesday, missed a second straight game, and SS Jose Iglesias, who tripped and took a sliding knee to the jaw on the final play of Wednesday's loss, did not play Thursday. A decision on whether he would go on the disabled list was expected later in the day. ... Wednesday's loss was the Tigers' first on a walk-off error since August 2010 against Boston. ... The Rays had lost 102 straight when trailing in the ninth inning or later before Wednesday's win, a streak that went back to October 2015. Across the majors, only Minnesota (128) had a longer such streak. ... The Tigers made a move after the game, optioning RHP Warwick Saupold to Triple-A Toledo and recalling LHP Blaine Hardy. Hardy, 30, pitched in one game earlier this season with a 0.00 ERA and was 3-0 for Toledo with a 1.23 ERA. Brad Ausmus said Saupold needs to pitch every five days so he's ready to step in if they need a starter.
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