Rolando Arrojo didn't have his best fastball, but his other pitches worked fine.
Arrojo (12-11) allowed just three singles with four walks and five strikeouts. The 30-year-old rookie, who made the AL All-Star team after a 10-5 start, was 0-5 in his previous seven starts.
"I didn't feel like my fastball is like early in the year, so I'm using location and breaking balls and sliders and whatever I can to get people out," Arrojo said through an interpreter. "(Manager) Larry Rothschild and (pitching coach) Rick Williams have emphasized that I'm around home plate and should just concentrate on hitters."
Rothschild said Arrojo has been coming around lately.
"I thought his last two starts he threw the ball well and he continued today," Rothschild said. "He kept the ball down. He had a few lapses, but he came right back and made some big pitches."
Arrojo left with a 6-0 lead that the bullpen almost blew when the Tigers scored five runs in the eighth. Roberto Hernandez got out of the jam by getting Frank Catalanotto to ground into a bases-loaded, inning-ending double play.
"That was huge," said shortstop Aaron Ledesma, who helped turn the double play. "That was the biggest play of the game."
Tampa Bay regained control with a four-run ninth and Hernandez went on to earn his 23rd save.
The Devil Rays won three of four from Detroit to move 1 ½ games ahead of the Tigers in a race to avoid the AL's worst record. Detroit has lost four of six and 21 of 27.
Ledesma had a career-best four RBIs and was 5-for-13 in the final three games of the series.
"I felt pretty good," said Ledesma, who's hitting .333 in August. "I was a little tired, but sometimes you have good days when you're tired because you don't try too hard."
Ledesma had a sacrifice fly in Tampa Bay's four-run ninth. Fred McGriff had an RBI double and Mike Kelly a two-run single.
Rookie right-hander Brian Powell (3-5), who won his last start, lasted just three innings and gave up five runs on six hits.
"He seems to be good one (start), then two bad," Tigers manager Buddy Bell said. "Hopefully he can get on a little better schedule than that. He'll continue to start unless we feel a stint in the bullpen would clear his mind and loosen him up. "
Powell, just one year removed from Class A, has struggled throughout this season.
"Last year in A-ball and in Double-A this year when I had success, I got more time to make adjustments," Powell said. "Here, that's not the case. The hitters adjust right away; that's what they get pid the big bucks for."
Arrojo entered the game with the poorest run support (3.57) among AL starters, but he had a 6-0 lead after four innings.
Ledesma's RBI single gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead in the second, and he added a two-run double in a four-run third that also included Smith's ninth homer of the season and a run-scoring single from John Flaherty.
Randy Winn doubled and scored on a strange 5-2-3 play in the fourth. Winn took third on a groundout and beat third baseman Gabe Alvarez's throw home on Smith's grounder. Smith was slow out of the box and was thrown out at first by catcher Joe Siddall.
Jim Mecir relieved Arrojo in the eighth and loaded the bases before Tony Clark hit a two-run double. Luis Gonzalez followed with another two-run double off Esteban Yan that cut Detroit's deficit to 6-4.
After Siddall singled in another run, Hernandez came in and walked pinch-hitter Geronimo Berroa to load the bases with one out before Catalanotto grounded into a double play.
"Roberto made a big pitch to get that double play," Rothschild said.
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