DETROIT — Brennan Boesch drove in four runs on his 27th birthday, leading the Detroit Tigers to their fifth win in six games to start the season, 7-2 over the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
Drew Smyly gave up a run in four-plus innings in his major league debut. Despite having the American League’s best record, Tigers starters have not earned a win.
Collin Balester (1-0) won this one with two innings of relief.
The Tigers trailed 1-0 until scoring three runs off Jeff Niemann (0-1) in the fifth. Alex Avila walked and scored on Andy Dirks’ one-out triple. Ryan Raburn struck out, but Austin Jackson walked and stole second before Boesch’s two-run single.
The Rays got a run back on Evan Longoria’s RBI single in the seventh, but Jeff Keppinger lined into a double play and Phil Coke retired Ben Zobrist to end the inning. Boesch then hit another two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
Avila hit an RBI triple in the eighth, then scored Detroit’s seventh run on a wild pitch.
Smyly had a shaky beginning to his first start, loading the bases on two walks and a single. But Smyly got out of the inning on a pop-up and two strikeouts.
He gave up four hits, walked three and struck out four.
Carlos Pena opened the scoring with a homer in the third. Smyly hit Pena with a pitch to lead off the fifth and was taken out for Balester.
Jeremy Hellickson, who was taken to a hospital after being hit in the head during batting practice Wednesday, passed a battery of tests and is expected to make his scheduled start on Saturday in Boston. … The Tigers are starting the season with nine straight day games, the longest streak by an American League team since the White Sox in 2004.