DETROIT -- History folded back on Ian Kinsler, in a most unenjoyable way.
In the first game Kinsler played against the Tigers, in the first week of his rookie season, his Texas Rangers fell way behind by the fourth inning.
On Thursday, in the first game Kinsler played against Texas, his Tigers fell way behind by the fourth inning.
The Rangers beat the Tigers, 9-2, and prompted manager Brad Ausmus to employ infielder Danny Worth as a mop-up reliever by the ninth inning. Throwing a knuckleball at about 70 m.p.h., he allowed a leadoff single and retired the next three hitters, two on roar-inducing strikeouts. Against the team from Texas, he had become Fort Worth.
It was a moment of levity in the Tigers' fourth straight loss. In those four defeats, their reliable rotation hasn't recorded a quality start. Rookie left-hander Robbie Ray (stepping in for Rick Porcello) got knocked out Thursday when Shin-Soo Choo's two-run homer in the fourth made it 7-0. Sounding like a seasoned skipper, Ausmus said, "Regardless of the team, you're going to go through a stretch like this where maybe you don't get the starting pitching you think you're going to get, and it taxes the bullpen and it kind of snowballs."
When Worth took the mound, the bullpen had thrown 14 1/3 innings since Monday, not counting the one inning that Drew Smyly chipped in Thursday. The bullpen had undertaken this load while a man short. Reliever Justin Miller was sent out Sunday so that Ray could stay around and give Porcello a few more days to recover from a sore side.
Ausmus told Worth in the sixth inning to get ready. Afterward, it was time to waive the unwritten rule against beaming about an individual feat after a loss. In his hard-to-start big-league career, Worth, 28, deservedly wore perhaps the biggest smile he has ever shown in a postgame interview.
"I was throwing better knuckleballs down in the bullpen," Worth said. "When I got out there, I got a little nervous and my hand was getting real sweaty." His butterfly pitch has been waiting in the cocoon -- he said he developed it "for fun" in sessions of playing catch.
Worth became the first position player to pitch for the Tigers since Don Kelly in 2011. "He said, 'Thanks for bumping me down,'" Worth said. Kelly, playing left, caught the one fair ball that the Rangers hit off Worth.
Kelly threw one-third of an inning. According to club research, Worth achieved something no Tiger had done since Mark Koenig in 1931 -- someone who is primarily a position player threw a full inning.
With two out in the ninth and two strikes on Leonys Martin, the crowd rose and roared, as if Worth were trying to nail down a save. "I loved it," Worth said. "That made it." The noise grew when Martin took strike three and Worth headed for dugout handshakes from his fellow pitchers.
Kinsler opened the first with a four-pitch walk from Yu Darvish, against whom baserunners subsequently didn't come so easily. Kinsler finished 1-for-3 with a bloop double on which centerfielder David Robertson suffered a blow to the head when he collided with rightfielder Alex Rios. X-rays and concussion tests on him were negative.
In Kinsler's first Rangers-Tigers game eight years ago, the Tigers took an 8-0 lead by the fourth. In the fifth, Kinsler launched his first big-league homer, off Nate Robertson. "I can remember it like was yesterday," he said Thursday. He might forget this one much faster than the Tigers' ninth-inning pitcher will.
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