ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Jake McGee knew that if he was to somehow wriggle out of the bases-loaded, no-out situation manager Joe Maddon had thrust him into on Sunday -- against the top-hitting team in the American League, no less -- he was best served finishing things before he faced the league's best hitter.
And he did.
McGee's scoreless relief stint in the seventh inning helped the Rays convert a tenuous 3-1 lead into the final score and a series win against the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field.
"Right there you're just out-to-out," said McGee, who had never entered a major league game in such a situation. "You don't want to get (Miguel) Cabrera up there. It was big to make that last guy put it into play."
Detroit, entering the game batting .281 as a team, chased Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson by loading the bases with none out, cuing the appearance by the left-handed McGee.
Bryan Holaday's fly ball to right wasn't deep enough to score Andy Dirks from third. Third baseman Kelly Johnson then threw home for a force out after fielding an Austin Jackson grounder. McGee then retired Torii Hunter on a fly ball to end the inning and avoid Cabrera, who is backing up his 2012 Triple Crown campaign by again leading the league in scores of categories - including batting average, hits and RBIs - and had belted his 25th homer earlier.
"He did exactly what he had to do," manager Joe Maddon said of McGee's performance. "The play by Kelly, he came in on it, didn't rush it, made the only play he knew he had."
Tampa Bay took two games of the three-game set, winning its first series against Detroit since 2010. The Rays improved to 43-39 as Detroit slumped to 43-37 after losing for the fourth time in the last five games. The Tigers remain in a first-place tie with Cleveland in the AL Central.
Hellickson improved to 7-3 after allowing one earned run, six hits and three walks in six innings. He struck out six. Fernando Rodney struck out two in the ninth for his 17th save after picking up the win on Saturday.
A night after Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he would "not tolerate" the type of brush-back pitch Rodney threw near Cabrera's head, Tigers starter Rick Porcello hit the Rays' Ben Zobrist with the first pitch in the first inning, greatly irritating Maddon. The manager called Porcello's actions "totally premeditated" and hoped out loud that the league would investigate, noting that the Rays had not actually struck a Tigers batter in the series.
Maddon said he was "unimpressed" how Cabrera had escalated the situation on Saturday, noting that while he is an "outstanding" player, "I just wish he didn't cry so much."
The mild-mannered Zobrist walked slowly to first base after being struck below the shoulder. Both benches were warned and there were no further incidents in the teams' last meeting this season.
Zobrist agreed with Maddon on all counts, saying the umpiring crew "should have done something" about his being struck and adding, "for Cabrera being the best hitter in the world, he was a little sensitive last night."
Said Leyland: "Nobody's trying to hit anybody. It's just part of the game."
Porcello said the pitch "just got away" from him as he tried to work inside.
Tampa Bay took a 1-0 lead in the second when James Loney doubled and scored on a two-out single by Jose Lobaton.
The Tigers answered bombastically in the fourth as Cabrera became just the second player to hit a homer into the live-ray petting tank perched behind the right-center field wall. Cabrera, who had celebrated a win on Friday by mimicking friend and former teammate Rodney's archer pose, chose not to re-fire the agitation between the teams with a staid celebration with teammates.
Tampa Bay exploited Porcello's control problems to score twice in the fourth for a 3-1 lead.
Rookie Wil Myers continued his productive first few weeks in the majors with a one-out single to begin the rally and took second when Luke Scott (2-for-4) yanked a single to right. Kelly Johnson's single to right loaded the bases. Porcello fell behind in the count 3-0 to Lobaton (3-for-3) before the eighth-hole hitter smacked an RBI single up the middle.
Yunel Escobar walked with the bases loaded for a 3-1 lead.
Porcello (4-6) allowed three runs, eight hits and two walks in six innings. He struck out three.
NOTES: Hellickson tied a franchise record with five wins in a month. ... Justin Verlander's tying homer surrendered to Scott on Saturday was the first he had ever allowed in the eighth inning or later. ... The Rays play 14 games against teams with sub.-500 records before the All-Star break. ... Rays 3B Evan Longoria missed a second straight game because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Maddon said Longoria described the pain as "not quite so severe" and "different" on Sunday. Maddon was hopeful Longoria could play this week. ... The Rays' Loney extended his season-high hitting streak to 11 games with a second-inning double. ... Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 15 games with the fourth-inning home run. The Dodgers' Luis Gonzalez (June 24, 2007, off Edwin Jackson) is the only other player to reach the touch tank. ... Detroit pitching leads the majors with nine bases-loaded walks. ... Detroit is batting .277 in the seventh inning or later.