|Tampa Bay (70-59)||0||0||0||3||0||0||0||0||0||3||7||0|
|Detroit (69-60) «||0||0||1||0||0||0||0||3||x||4||6||0|
The AL Central-leading Tigers improved to 42-21 at home and have a relatively comfortable cushion over the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox.
"This is a different ballclub than 2006, but there's a lot of good karma and good guys just like we had," said Verlander (15-7), a rookie for the AL champions when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. "It's a very similar-type feeling and obviously, that was a fun year."
The Rays, meanwhile, are not enjoying their season after winning the AL pennant.
"We let it get away," manager Joe Maddon said. "We've done that too many times, and that's why our record is where it is."
Tampa Bay fell to 28-38 on the road and 11 games over .500 overall, heading home for a possibly pivotal series against the wild card-leading Boston Red Sox.
"We can't afford to lose games like the one we lost today," Rays outfielder Carl Crawford said. "We're getting close to the line where we are going to be eliminated."
Verlander surrendered three runs, six hits and four walks over eight innings and struck out four, matching a season low. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 29th save in 30 chances.
Niemann was replaced in the eighth with a 3-1 lead after Clete Thomas hit a leadoff double. After Balfour retired the first two batters he faced, Curtis Granderson walked and Polanco hit his eighth home run of the season, snapping an 0-for-13 slump.
"I had challenged the first two guys and I felt great, but when I pitched around Granderson, it put me on the defensive," Balfour said. "Polanco squared up a fastball, which is going to happen, but it happened at the worst possible time."
Niemann retired the Tigers in order in the first two innings and four of the first six.
"He should have three more wins than we've given him," Maddon lamented.
"That gets lost in this whole game," Leyland said. "That was huge for us. Laird was a big part of this win."
|Placido Polanco turns on a Grant Balfour pitch for a three-run shot and a 4-3 lead in the eighth. (US Presswire)|
|Players of the Game|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Jason Bartlett, SS||1||0||0||0||2||0||1||.337|
|Carl Crawford, LF||4||0||1||0||0||0||2||.312|
|Ben Zobrist, RF||4||0||1||0||0||2||4||.288|
|Carlos Pena, 1B||4||0||0||0||0||0||1||.218|
|Pat Burrell, DH||3||1||0||0||1||1||2||.239|
|Evan Longoria, 3B||4||1||1||2||0||0||0||.267|
|Gregg Zaun, C||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.258|
|Gabe Kapler, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.247|
|Akinori Iwamura, 2B||4||1||1||1||0||0||1||.311|
|B.J. Upton, CF||4||0||2||0||0||0||1||.241|
|2B - B.J. Upton (29, Verlander)|
|HR - Evan Longoria (25, Verlander), Akinori Iwamura (1, Verlander)|
|RBI - Evan Longoria 2 (90), Akinori Iwamura (17)|
|2-OUT RBI - Akinori Iwamura (8)|
|SB - Carl Crawford (55, 2nd base off Verlander/Laird)|
|CS - Jason Bartlett (5, 2nd base by Verlander/Laird), B.J. Upton (13, 2nd base by Verlander/Laird)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|Outfield Assists - Carl Crawford 1|
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|Grant Balfour (BS,3; L,5-3)||1||1||2||2||1||1||1||4.45|
|Pitches-Strikes - Jeff Niemann 96-64, Grant Balfour 17-10|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeff Niemann 7-10|
|Batters Faced - Jeff Niemann 25, Grant Balfour 5|
|Curtis Granderson, CF||3||1||1||1||1||0||0||.258|
|Placido Polanco, 2B||4||1||1||3||0||0||0||.268|
|Carlos Guillen, LF||4||0||0||0||0||1||0||.235|
|Ryan Raburn, LF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.273|
|Miguel Cabrera, 1B||3||0||0||0||0||1||0||.335|
|Aubrey Huff, DH||3||0||1||0||0||0||0||.243|
|Brandon Inge, 3B||3||0||0||0||0||0||1||.240|
|Clete Thomas, RF||3||2||3||0||0||0||0||.250|
|Gerald Laird, C||2||0||0||0||0||0||1||.225|
|a- Magglio Ordonez, PH||1||0||0||0||0||0||1||.275|
|Alex Avila, C||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.303|
|Ramon Santiago, SS||3||0||0||0||0||2||2||.254|
|a-flied out for Laird in the 8th|
|2B - Aubrey Huff (25, Niemann), Clete Thomas (10, Niemann)|
|HR - Placido Polanco (8, Balfour)|
|RBI - Curtis Granderson (59), Placido Polanco 3 (58)|
|2-OUT RBI - Curtis Granderson (26), Placido Polanco 3 (28)|
|Team LOB - 2|
|Justin Verlander (W,15-7)||8||6||3||3||3||4||2||3.38|
|Fernando Rodney (S,29)||1||1||0||0||0||0||0||3.28|
|HBP - Bartlett (by Justin Verlander)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Justin Verlander 124-86, Fernando Rodney 13-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Justin Verlander 5-13, Fernando Rodney 2-1|
|Batters Faced - Justin Verlander 32, Fernando Rodney 4|
|Attendance - 36067|
|Game Time - 2:30|
|Temperature - 61|
|Umpires - Home - Mike Everitt, First Base - Brian Gorman, Second Base - Gerry Davis, Third Base - C.B. Bucknor|