DETROIT — The Rays certainly didn't look like a team ready for its toughest stretch of the season Friday.
Instead, they opened their 17-game challenge with a flat 6-2 loss to the AL Central-leading Tigers.
The Rays were hoping to put Wednesday's crushing defeat in Toronto behind them. Instead, they are 69-58 and on a two-game losing streak, failing 41/2 games behind the wild-card leading Red Sox and remaining two behind the Rangers.
The Rays were down 1-0 after a two-out Brandon Inge homer in the second. Rays starter Matt Garza loaded the bases on two walks and a single with one out in the fourth, and it got worse from there quickly as the Tigers scored five times.
Gerald Laird's drive to right-center got by diving RF Gabe Gross — who apparently called off B.J. Upton, who looked to have a better shot — for a two-run double. Then No. 9 hitter Adam Everett doubled in two more runs with a shot to left, and Curtis Granderson doubled him in.
"It was the two walks," Garza said. "The two walks got me."
"Probably the two biggest plays of the night," manager Joe Maddon said. "Those five runs showed up fast."
The Rays couldn't do much against rookie Rick Porcello, shut out until the sixth when Pat Burrell doubled, went to third on a groundout and scored on Gregg Zaun's single. They added a homer by Gabe Kapler with two outs in the ninth and rallied briefly as rain fell.
The trade talks involving Scott Kazmir could have been a distraction, but Garza didn't make that an excuse: "Maybe, maybe not. Odds are not."
Either way, he didn't have a good night, allowing six runs (his most since April 19) and — for the second time in three starts — lasted only five innings.
In six starts against the Tigers, Garza is 0-3 with a 5.79 ERA.
Aki on the way: Akinori Iwamura went 2-for-3 as the DH for Durham then left the game before his expected return to the Rays today, his rehab of left knee surgery apparently done.
zobrist absent: 2B Ben Zobrist missed the game so he could go home to Eureka, Ill., after a death in the family but is expected back today, the Rays said. That left the Rays even more short-handed with only Kapler and C Dioner Navarro on the bench.
Crawford back: LF Carl Crawford returned to the lineup, saying the stiff back that had sidelined him since Monday improved enough to test it on the natural grass at Comerica Park.
"It's not 100 percent. But … I think I can still do a lot of things I can do on the field and still feel confident that I can help the team win," he said.
Crawford went 1-for-4, beating out an infield single.
Long day's night: The frustration of Wednesday's walkoff wild pitch stuck with closer J.P. Howell for a while.
"It gets you sick to your stomach," Howell said.
He has allowed homers in four of his past seven games, which he said could be a result of hitters sitting on the curveball he is throwing more often.
"It's easy to hit that when you know. Last year, my main pitch was my fastball, and that's something I think I need to get back to."
Miscellany: OF Fernando Perez went 3-for-5 in his rehab game for Durham. … All six of Kapler's homers have come off left-handers.