Max Scherzer allowed two hits in eight outstanding innings, and the Detroit Tigers backed their star right-hander with three early homers in an 8-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter all went deep as part of a five-run first inning for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who have won 12 of 14. Tampa Bay's five-game winning streak is over.
Detroit leads second-place Kansas City by five games.
Scherzer (10-3) allowed a first-inning sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria, but that was the first of 10 straight hitters retired by the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner. After allowing a single in the fourth, Scherzer retired another 13 in a row before he was pulled with a pitch count of 106.
Erik Bedard (4-6) allowed six runs and eight hits with two walks in two innings.
Miguel Cabrera had two doubles, a single and a walk for Detroit.
The Rays are still at the bottom of the AL East, and the improved starting pitching that fueled their recent run was nowhere to be seen Thursday. After a leadoff single by Austin Jackson in the first, Kinsler homered to put the Tigers ahead. Cabrera's walk was followed by Martinez's 21st home run.
Hunter added a solo shot with one out to make it 5-1.
It was Martinez's first game back after he missed three with soreness in his side.
Cabrera doubled in the second and scored on J.D. Martinez's single. He also scored on a single by Hunter in the fourth.
Scherzer, coming off a 13-strikeout performance against Houston in his previous start, fanned seven with a walk, and the Detroit defense played well behind him.