ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — Justin Verlander became the first 19-game winner in the majors, Alex Avila hit his 15th homer and the AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-2 on Monday night.
Verlander (19-5) won his seventh consecutive start, giving up one run and three hits in seven innings. The 19 wins match his career high, set in 2009.
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead in the second when Avila hit a two-run shot off Jeff Niemann (8-5). The All-Star catcher is 25 for 59 (.424) with five homers and 14 RBIs this month.
Niemann, who was 7-0 in his 10 previous start, allowed four runs and six hits over 7 1-3 innings.
Tampa Bay center fielder B.J. Upton left with a right shoulder strain after running into the wall on Delmon Young’s eighth-inning double.
Jhonny Peralta made it 4-1 in the eighth on a two-out, two-run single off reliever Juan Cruz. The hit came after Jake McGee, who replaced Niemann with the bases loaded and one out, struck out Avila.
Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, who gave up a solo homer in the ninth to Evan Longoria, both pitched one inning to complete a six-hitter.
Don Kelly extended the Tigers’ lead to 5-1 on a ninth-inning homer.