Rodriguez hits fourth spring homer in loss

Rodriguez hits fourth spring homer in loss

TIGERS 9, RAYS 6
at Lakeland, Fla.
Sunday, March 14

Rays at the plate: John Jaso put Tampa Bay on the scoreboard in the fifth with a solo homer before the Rays broke open their offense in the seventh. Pat Burrell's RBI double and Justin Ruggiano's two-run homer tied the game ahead of Sean Rodriguez's go-ahead two-run shot, his fourth home run of the spring.

Tigers at the plate: Austin Jackson flashed his potential in the leadoff spot with three big runs. His infield single leading off the first inning set up Magglio Ordonez to open the scoring when he blistered a line-drive double to the fence in left-center field. Jackson legged out a two-out triple in the fifth and scored on Johnny Damon's line-drive single to center, then tripled and scored again leading off the seventh. Jeff Larish added a two-run single.

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Rays on the mound: Starter Jeff Niemann recovered from that first-inning run to retire nine consecutive batters, striking out the side in order in the second. Six of his 11 outs came by strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings of three-hit, no-walk ball. Mike Ekstrom ended a fourth-inning scoring threat but gave up three runs over the next couple innings.

Tigers on the mound: Rick Porcello fell behind some hitters and worked into some slight trouble, but he still pitched four innings unblemished to stretch his Spring Training stinginess to nine scoreless innings. Phil Coke gave up Jaso's homer in the fifth before Eddie Bonine struck out two in a perfect sixth. Daniel Schlereth gave up four runs in the seventh, including Ruggiano's homer, before Rodriguez jumped on Joel Zumaya's fastball.

Worth noting: The one time the Rays retired Jackson required a deft defensive play from Evan Longoria, who made a backhanded stab down the third-base line and quick off-balance throw across the infield to rob Jackson of an infield single in the third inning.

Grapefruit League standings: Rays 9-3, Tigers 6-6

Up next: The Rays have their only off-day of the Grapefruit League schedule Monday, then host the Red Sox's split-squad crew at Charlotte Sports Park on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Catcher Dioner Navarro, out since Thursday with a left thumb contusion, is expected to make his return that night. Starting that game will be Wade Davis, and backing him up will be Andy Sonnanstine. The two of them are in competition with one another for the No. 5 spot in the rotation, and Sonnanstine (two earned runs in five innings) seemingly has the early edge over the younger Davis (six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings).

The Tigers are on local television in Detroit for the first time this Spring Training against an already-familiar foe this year, hosting the Blue Jays in a 1:05 p.m. ET start also on MLB.TV. Armando Galarraga gets his chance to answer Saturday's strong performances from Dontrelle Willis, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman in the rotation race when he starts Monday opposite Toronto left-hander Marc Rzepzcynski. Brad Thomas, Ryan Perry and Jose Valverde are slated to pitch in relief for the Tigers.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.