ARLINGTON, Texas -- Ian Kinsler homered in his first at-bat back in his former home venue, but that was all the Detroit Tigers had for six innings. The score was tied entering the seventh inning tonight at Globe Life Park. Then J.D. Martinez, the Tigers' hottest hitter, struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
So was the inning a bummer for Martinez and the Tigers?
That bases-loaded strikeout came on Martinez's second at-bat of the inning. On the first, he drilled the tie-breaking two-run homer to center that launched the five-run inning that sent the Tigers to an 8-2 win over the Rangers in their series opener.
In his first game after being named after being named AL player of the week, Martinez went 2-for-5. The other hit was a double to deep center.
Martinez began his hot streak began a week ago Saturday when he went 2-for-5 against Minnesota. Beginning with that game, he is 17-for-41 (.415) with five homers and 15 RBIs. His slugging percentage is .902, which is beyond even the Ruthian stratosphere.
Three times in this burst, Martinez has knocked in the run that put the Tigers ahead to stay--twice with a homer, and the other-time with a game-ending sacrifice fly.
And since Martinez launched this hot streak, the Tigers have won seven of 10 -- after they had won only seven of their previous 24.
The Tigers have won five straight, the Rangers have lost six straight, and there are two more games in this series. It's a series in which Yu Darvish won't pitch and thus the latest series in which the Tigers don't see the other team's top pitcher. In five lifetime starts against the Tigers, Darvish is 5-0.
Tigers starter Drew Smyly got the win by going six innings and allowing one run. It was his fourth straight start in which he went at least six innings and didn't allow more than two runs. He'd lost two of those previous low-run outings because of scant run support.
With one out in the first and the bases empty, Kinsler homered to left off right-hander Colby Lewis. It was Kinsler's first at-bat as a visiting player in the park where he had spent the previous eight years of his career. It appeared there weren't more than 15,000 people in the stands when he came to the plate, and he received a combination of cheers (for those eight years) and boos (perhaps for his preseason comments criticizing the Rangers). It was like the annual Oklahoma-Texas football game about 20 miles from here in Cotton Bowl--a decidedly split audience.
The announced crowd was 35,526. The small gathering at the game's start probably could be traced in part to rain during the afternoon in the area; some folks with tickets might not have been sure the game would be played until about the time it got under way.
Kinsler stretched out his arms and pointed to his left and then his right (at the Rangers' first-base dugout) on the way to first. He broke into a smile in between first and second on his home-run trot.
With two out, Victor Martinez singled and J.D. Martinez, in his first at-bat since being named AL player of the week, lined a double to deep center. It looked like Smyly, who hadn't received more than two runs of support in any of his last three starts, could have at least two runs before he went to the mound.
But the Rangers threw out Victor Martinez at the plate, with shortstop Elvis Andrus making the relay home.
From the second through the sixth, Lewis blanked the Tigers. He allowed three runners in that span, and two were caught stealing.
The Rangers tied the game with an unearned run in the second after the Tigers got no outs on what looked like an inning-ending double-play comebacker to Smyly. He threw low to second, and shortstop Eugenio Suarez dropped the throw. Suarez should have gotten an out, but if Smyly had put the throw up around Suarez's chest where it belonged, it could have been a double play. With two out, Adrian Beltre cashed the error by pulling an RBI single to left.
The crowd was much bigger by Kinsler's third at-bat of the game, in the sixth inning. He received more boos on that at-bat than he did his first time up. He hit a homer-length foul, then grounded out for the second out of the inning. Miguel Cabrera flied to the track for the third out. It looked like that for the fourth start in a row, Smyly might get fewer than two runs of support while making a quality start.
Then Lewis, who didn't have a quality start all season, went out for the seventh inning for the first time this season.
Victor Martinez led off with a double to deep right-center. J.D. Martinez launched the next over the fence in center.
One out later, Austin Jackson singled to knock out Lewis. The next three hitters got hits off right-hander Ben Rowen to bring home two more runs. (There went Lewis's quality start.) Victor Martinez drove in the final run of the inning with a bases-loaded walk against right-hander Shawn Tolleson. And then J.D. Martinez struck out.
Kinsler added a two-run single in the eighth for an 8-1 lead and a three-RBI homecoming.
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