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ST. PETERSBURG - Manager Joe Maddon said RHP Wade Davis' dazzling big-league debut Sunday was "about as good as you could possibly make."
Davis showed why he is one of the Rays' top prospects - and a candidate for the 2010 rotation - by dominating the Tigers with a low 90s fastball that sneaked up on hitters, maintaining command with his other pitches and showing great composure.
Davis, who turns 24 today, was aggressive, often getting ahead of hitters and striking out the first three he faced (and five of the first six). He lasted seven innings in arguably the best debut for a Rays starting pitcher.
"I stayed relaxed," Davis said. "My biggest goal (was) try to give this team a chance to win the game."
Davis earned a standing ovation, and possibly another start. Maddon said he will decide between him and Andy Sonnanstine (who pitches tonight) for the next turn in the rotation. But pitching coach Jim Hickey said, "I'd be pretty surprised if we didn't see him starting again."
The Tigers can see why.
"Some guys throw 93 (mph), and it's 93," manager Jim Leyland. "He throws 93, and it looks like 95, 96, 97. All the hitters were coming back to the dugout saying, 'This comes out so free and easy. It's on you in a hurry.'??"
Davis' lone mistake came in the second inning, when ex- Ray Aubrey Huff hit a 373-foot solo homer. "He was just blowing heaters past guys," Huff said. "I got one on the handle. I just kind of cheated on it."
Davis said he was calmer than he thought he would be and by pitching to contact, he got ahead of hitters, which was huge.
The only thing missing was a victory, which put Davis in select company. According to Baseball-reference.com and Retrosheet.org, he is the first pitcher in 44 years who didn't win his debut despite going at least seven innings, not allowing more than one run and striking out at least nine.
The last was left-hander Rudy May. He allowed one run and one hit and struck out 10 over nine innings on April 18, 1965, but his Angels lost 4-1 in 13 innings to the Tigers.
"Davis was fantastic," teammate Ben Zobrist said. "You can't ask for a guy to come out and have a better debut. We're looking forward to watching in the future."
WELCOME BACK: Edwin Jackson, pitching against his former team for the first time since being traded in December, also delivered a strong performance. He picked up the win after going eight innings (and 126 pitches), his 20th quality start of the year.
"I hope he keeps it up now that we don't have to play him anymore," Zobrist said.
SCALE BACK: Maddon said LHP J.P. Howell's recent struggles stem partly from falling behind in counts and issuing walks but acknowledged that "overusage" over the past two seasons might be taking a toll.
Maddon said he will monitor Howell and might reduce his appearances significantly if the Rays fall out of the wild-card race. Howell tied for the major-league lead in relief innings last season (891/3) and has thrown 632/3 this year. In Howell's past 13 appearances, he is 1-3 while giving up 10 runs, 10 walks and four homers over 101/3 innings. Howell said everyone is fatigued in September but it's no excuse.
"People have done well with the fatigue that I have, so it's definitely doable," he said. "I should be doing better."
UPTON close: CF B.J. Upton's sprained left ankle continued to improve, and he said the goal is to start Game 2 of today's doubleheader in New York.
Upton ran on the field before Sunday's game and said the ankle was "so-so," but he has been able to get some work hitting in the cage.
MISCELLANY: Maddon said three or four starters could play in both games today and Reid Brignac will start one at shortstop. Evan Longoria's homer in the second, a solo shot, gave him a career-high 28 and made him and Carlos Pe?a the first Rays to reach 100 RBIs in the same season.Sign up for breaking news alerts from FOXSports.com!