ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - Manager Jim Leyland marveled - as much as the hard-bitten veteran is capable of marveling - about Max Scherzer's 12-0 start to the season.
In allowing three runs in seven innings and striking out nine batters Friday in the Detroit Tigers' 6-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field, the right-hander had reset his team record for consecutive wins to start a season.
"Pretty impressive," Leyland dead-panned, stockinged feet propped on desk and a cigarette in hand. "The Tigers have been around a long time."
Scherzer considered the record more in immediate terms.
"All I thought about was winning today," said Scherzer, the first starting pitcher to begin a season 12-0 since Roger Clemens went 14-0 in 1986. "My personal record is a reflection of this team."
Miguel Cabrera went 4-for-4 with a double and two home runs and Prince Fielder broke a 21-game home-run drought with his 13th, allowing Scherzer to become the majors' first 12-game winner.
It was a pleasant reflection on Friday as Detroit (43-35) broke a three-game losing streak at the start on an 11-game road swing. Tampa Bay (41-39) has lost two in a row and 15 of its last 19 to the Tigers dating to 2010.
Fielder's home run, a monstrous two-run shot off Cesar Ramos to right-center field in the eighth inning upped the Tigers' lead to three after the Rays had pulled to 4-3 in the seventh. Cabrera was impressed, remarking "Miami," when asked where Fielder's shot would have landed hadn't hit the "C" catwalk suspended above the field.
Fielder said he had not been concerned about his homerless streak.
"I'm pretty glad it went out, but I don't know if that's important," he said. "I think it's just me driving in runs. It makes it easier to drive in multiple runs, I guess."
Then he smiled and added, "If you would tell me the formula hit home runs, I promise I'll do it every time."
Cabrera, the American League leader in batting average, hits and RBIs, had a hit every time on Friday, increasing his RBI count to 81, pulling within four home runs of AL leader Chris Davis by hitting his 23rd and 24th of the season and increasing his hit total to 116. Cabrera also scored three times.
Cabrera accounted for three runs on three pitches in his first two at-bats. The 2012 Triple Crown winner mashed an 0-1 pitch from Alex Colome into the left-field bleachers for a 2-0 lead in the first that scored Austin Jackson, who had walked leading off. In the fourth, Cabrera crushed the first pitch he saw to the same vicinity.
Fielder (2-for-3, two RBIs) followed Cabrera's fourth-inning homer with a double to the right-center field alley, moved to third on a Victor Martinez lineout to right and scored on a wild pitch. Detroit led 4-0.
Cabrera and Fielder accounted for six of Detroit's eight hits, all five RBIs and five of its six runs.
"Cabrera was terrific tonight, and Prince hit the big bomb, so it was a nice combination," Leyland said. "That's the combination of how we get a lot of wins."
Solo home runs by Ben Zobrist in the fourth and rookie Wil Myers in the fifth halved the lead, and the Rays pressed Scherzer in the seventh as they pulled within 4-3.
"I had a bad first at-bat. I was jumping a little too much," Myers said. "Luckily, he left me one over the plate and I was able to put a good swing on it."
Luke Scott's two-out double into the right-field corner scored Myers, who had singled in front of him. After a visit from Leyland, Scherzer retired Jose Lobaton to end the threat.
"We came back. We hit some homers. We didn't play badly, they just out-homered us tonight," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Colome (1-1) was charged with four earned runs on four hits and two walks in six innings.
Joaquin Benoit picked up his fifth save.
NOTES: Rays 3B Evan Longoria left the game after the second inning because he irritated the plantar fasciitis in his right foot running to first on a second-inning groundout. He will be re-evaluated on Saturday and is unlikely to play this weekend. The All-Star has played in all 80 Rays games this season after managing just 74 last season because of multiple injuries. ... Detroit's Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 13 games with the first-inning home run. ... Cabrera has 23 multi-homer games in the majors. ... Defending American League Cy Young Award-winner David Price will come off the disabled list to start for the Rays on Tuesday at Houston. Price has been on the DL since May 16 with a triceps strain. He is 1-4 with a 5.24 ERA after going 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA last season. He is expected to make three starts before the All-Star break on June 15. ... Rays RHP Alex Cobb played catch with a trainer on Friday. It was his first on-field activity since being struck in the head with an Eric Hosmer line drive while pitching at Tropicana Field on June 15. ... Myers has three homers and nine RBIs in 11 games since being recalled from the minors for his big-league debut.