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Kinsler's HR, four RBI boost Tigers over Indians
DETROIT -- Second baseman Ian Kinsler has endeared himself to the Detroit Tigers with his willingness to get dirty. He made them even happier on Thursday with his ability to clear the bases with one swing.
Kinsler drove in four runs, including a go-ahead three-run homer, to lift the Tigers to a 7-5 win over the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park.
Kinsler, acquired in a blockbuster deal with Texas during the offseason, doubled his RBI total for the season.
"He's been an All-Star for a reason, but the thing his teammates and certainly the coaching staff likes about him is his grittiness," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "Yes, he's got the ability to hit a home run. Yes, he can steal a base. Yes, he can play second base well, but man, he sticks his nose in the dirt. He's just a baseball rat."
Center fielder Austin Jackson had two sacrifice flies for Detroit, which overcame some ratty plays in the field. It made a season-high three errors, leading the Cleveland's first three runs.
Tigers starter Justin Verlander (2-1), who gave up those three unearned runs, notched the victory despite lasting only five innings. He threw 113 pitches while allowing six hits and four walks.
"He didn't have his best stuff, but he always keeps you in the game," Kinsler said of Verlander. "That's the great thing about Justin, he's a bulldog out there regardless if he's got his best stuff or not. He gave us an opportunity to win."
Closer Joe Nathan, who complained of a dead arm earlier in the month, collected his second save. He retired the middle of Cleveland's order 1-2-3 in the ninth.
"I felt like I was finishing pitches," he said. "I was locating where I wanted to and it did feel like (his fastball) was a lot livelier."
Left fielder Michael Brantley drove in four runs, including a two-run homer, for the Indians. Designated hitter Lonnie Chisenhall added a career-high four hits.
Indians starter Danny Salazar (0-2) was charged with the loss, giving up five runs in 4 2/3 innings.
The Tigers' four-run fifth gave them a 5-3 lead and knocked Salazar out of the game. Kinsler crushed a 3-1 pitch into the left-center field bullpen to put Detroit on top 4-3.
Salazar got into trouble by walking catcher Alex Avila and shortstop Alex Gonzalez.
"It was a 3-1 count and he lost his control a little bit that inning," Kinsler said. "It was really just a good pitch to drive there."
The Tigers tacked on a run with Jackson's second sacrifice fly.
"It's not necessarily bad to walk some of their hitters. You've just got to walk the right ones and not turn the lineup over and (face) the big boys," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That really hurt us."
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was ejected in the third inning after he struck out with the bases loaded. Kipnis turned to complain to home-plate umpire Lance Barrett about the first pitch of his three-pitch strikeout and Barrett quickly tossed him. It was Kipnis' first career ejection.
"I was surprised," Francona said of the quick ejection.
Kinsler's RBI single in the sixth made it 6-3. He knocked in left fielder Rajai Davis, who was hit by a pitch and reached third on an errant pickoff throw.
Brantley's homer off Ian Krol in the seventh brought the Indians within a run. Davis' infield single in the eighth gave Detroit an insurance run.
Cleveland broke through in the fourth on David Murphy's RBI single. The Tigers got the run back in the bottom of the inning on Jackson's first sacrifice fly.
A two-out error by Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos helped the Indians take a 3-1 lead in the fifth. Two batters later, Brantley ripped a two-run single to right.
"I thought we did a great job (against Verlander)," Francona said. "We made him work right from the first hitter of the game. If you can get him out after five, you feel like you've got a pretty good chance to win."
NOTES: Tigers LHP Drew Smyly makes his first start of the season against the Los Angeles Angels on Friday. Smyly, the team's fifth starter, has tossed six scoreless innings in relief. ... Indians ace RHP Justin Masterson, who is still seeking his first victory, starts the opener of a three-game series against Toronto on Friday. Cleveland plays its next seven games at Progressive Field. ... Before Cleveland's 3-2 victory over Detroit on Wednesday, the Indians had lost 30 consecutive games when scoring fewer than four runs with less than six hits. ... Tigers DH Victor Martinez needs seven more hits to reach 1,500 for his career.