DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers have come a long way in three years.
In 2003, they celebrated their 43rd victory as if they had just won the World Series. By beating Minnesota on the final day of the season, Detroit finished 43-119 to avoid tying the 1962 New York Mets' major league record of 120 losses.
On Thursday, the Tigers didn't even notice win No. 43 of 2006.
"Wow," Brandon Inge said after Detroit improved to 43-24 with a 6-2 victory over Tampa Bay. "I hadn't even thought about that. It's really unbelievable how much has changed here. That year, we fought (hard) to get to 43, and now we're there long before the All-Star break."
The win also kept the first-place Tigers ahead of Chicago in the AL Central.
"For the last few years, we've just been dreaming about getting out of the cellar," Inge said. "Now we're a contender."
Zach Miner, who was pitching in Class-A for the Atlanta Braves in 2003, allowed just two unearned runs and three hits in seven innings for Detroit.
"He did a really nice job," manager Jim Leyland said. "He's a legit pitcher. He just has to learn to trust his stuff."
Miner (2-1) won for the second straight time in his third career start.
"I'm more comfortable, but I'm still not comfortable-comfortable," he said. "I'm still pitching every game like they might send me back down tomorrow. That might last all year."
"They had good pitching, and there's nothing you can do about that," Tampa Bay's Jorge Cantu said. "We played good, but they have great pitching."
Inge and Vance Wilson, the bottom two hitters in the lineup, drove in two runs apiece.
"That's what we need," Leyland said. "We can't always rely on the middle of the order or the top of the order."
Casey Fossum (2-3) took his first loss since May 14, allowing six runs, 10 hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings.
"Things didn't go my way today," said Fossum, who got hit by two grounders, both in the right shin. "Nothing did."
Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead against Miner in the first, but couldn't hold on.
With one out, Ty Wigginton reached on Carlos Guillen's error at shortstop, then went to third on Rocco Baldelli's double. Cantu's groundout scored Wigginton, and Aubrey Huff followed with an RBI single.
"I felt good when the game began, and we got those two points early," Devil Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "All of a sudden, we just seemed to stop pushing. That was disappointing."
The Tigers tied the score with two runs in the third and went ahead with three in the fourth.
Chris Shelton led off the third with a bloop double and scored when Inge's sinking liner to center skipped past a diving Baldelli for a triple. Wilson followed with an RBI groundout.
Marcus Thames and Magglio Ordonez started the fourth with singles, and Guillen followed with an RBI double. After Omar Infante struck out and Shelton walked, Inge made it 4-2 with a sacrifice fly. Wilson added an RBI single.
The Tigers increased the margin to four on Placido Polanco's RBI single in the sixth.
- Ledezma was called up from Triple-A Toledo on Wednesday night to replace Bobby Seay, who had been designated for assignment.
- Both teams travel to National League parks for interleague play this weekend -- the Tigers to Chicago's Wrigley Field and Tampa Bay to Philadelphia.
- C Ivan Rodriguez was out of the starting lineup for a scheduled day off, despite a career .373 batting average against Tampa Bay.