Justin Verlander didn't have his "A" game tonight.  The Tiger ace

 gave up six runs in six innings and left the game trailing 6-5.  His teammates bailed him out this time as Alex Avila hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the 8th to give the Tigers a 7-6 victory. 

It was the second homer of the game for Avila, who also smacked a solo shot in the early innings.  Miguel Cabrera hit a 3-run homer in the 5th to give the Tigers a temporary lead, but Verlander was touched for 3 more runs in the 6th before leaving the game. 

Defensively, the Tigers made some great plays (Andy Dirk's diving catch in the first) but also commited four errors to put themselves into a hole.  A lucky bounce led to a force out to end the Tampa Bay 8th inning when it looked like the Rays might add to their lead.  Al Alburquerque got the last two outs of the 8th and got the win for the Tigers.  Joaquin Benoit pitched the 9th and picked up the save.  The win is the 3rd in a row for the streaky Tigers, who gain a game on first-place Cleveland after the Indians lost to Boston tonight.  The Tigers are now 6 games behind Cleveland. 

The Tigers and Rays play an afternoon game tomorrow at Comerica Park to wrap up this series, then Boston comes to town for four games.  Brad Penny gets the start on the mound for the Tigers, looking to extend the current win string.

First pitch at 1:05 pm.