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Published: Friday, 4/18/2014

Tigers rebound to knock off Salazar, Indians 7-5

BY DAVID BRIGGS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit’s Ian Kinsler, right, is congratulated by Alex Avila after Kinsler's three-run home run in the fifth inning gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead over the Indians. Joe Nathan finished off the game with a save. Detroit’s Ian Kinsler, right, is congratulated by Alex Avila after Kinsler's three-run home run in the fifth inning gave the Tigers a 4-3 lead over the Indians. Joe Nathan finished off the game with a save.
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DETROIT — Before the Tigers brushed aside the Indians 7-5 on Thursday, Brad Ausmus said he was not ready to jump off a bridge.

Nor was the new Detroit manager ready afterward to name a bridge in his team’s honor.

"Part of being a fan is dangling with every pitch," Ausmus said. "But as a manager and a player, you have to stay even. ... I can’t pick up a pack of seeds and fire them across the dugout every time something goes wrong."

The Tigers (7-5) split their first series with the Indians on a day that featured seed-throwing, bridge-jumping exasperation, but also a lot of good — kind of like their roiling start to the season.

While Detroit committed three errors behind uneven ace Justin Verlander, Ian Kinsler hit a three-run homer, closer Joe Nathan dismissed worries of a dead arm, and Miguel Cabrera began to shake an early slump.

In short:

■ "I was feeling good," Nathan said after pitching a perfect ninth.

■ "Miguel is going to be fine," Ausmus said after the two-time reigning MVP went 2 for 4 with a double and blistered a long out to the gap.

■ And, a day after the Tigers lost for the fifth time in seven games, the earth returned to its normal spin for the crowd of 25,990 at Comerica Park.

"I would like to win some more games," Kinsler said. "But right now we're playing OK, and just waiting to erupt a little bit and run off a bunch of wins in a row."

Thursday was a start, even if it was a 3-hour, 38-minute grind in which the teams combined for five errors and four unearned runs.

Verlander (2-1) labored through five innings, allowing three runs — none of which were earned — on six hits and four walks. But Indians starter Danny Salazar endured an even wilder day.

Salazar — the all-or-nothing 24-year-old who in his last start became the first pitcher since at least 1900 to record 10 strikeouts in less than four innings — teased in his latest volatile outing. He zipped through three scoreless innings, then gave up a run in the fourth and completely shattered in the fifth.

The right-hander could not throw strikes until, regrettably for the Indians, he could. After he walked the first two hitters in the fifth, Kinsler lined a mid-90s fastball on a 3-1 count into the left-center bullpen to put the Tigers ahead 4-3.

Salazar (0-2) would not make it out of the inning, allowing five runs on six hits in 4 2/​3 innings. He walked three and struck out three.

"With youth, sometimes it doesn't happen as fast," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You want it to happen right now. [But] he'll be all right."

Among the few positives for Cleveland was the continued tear of the American League’s unlikely batting leader. Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall raised his average to .522 with the first four-hit game of his career.

Detroit, meanwhile, watched Cabrera and Nathan return to past form. Nathan earned his second save in four chances in an uneventful ninth.

"It’s a good step in the right direction, and it gives you confidence going forward," Nathan said.

ON THE DEFENSIVE: Add another first to Ausmus’ dawning career as a manager: a talk-radio drubbing.

Ausmus, too, said he second-guessed an ill-fated call for Torii Hunter to bunt in the eighth inning of the Tigers’ 3-2 loss Wednesday, saying a day later it was the most he had mulled a decision this season.

"I go back and forth in the sense that it didn't work," Ausmus said. "But I don't think it was a bad decision. From a strategy standpoint, it puts us in a position to have our best hitters up with runners in scoring position."

Detroit trailed 3-1 with runners on first and second and no outs when Hunter — who once went 10 seasons without a sacrifice bunt — fell behind 0-2 and grounded into a double play instead. Cabrera followed with a run-scoring single, but the Tigers no longer had the tying run on base.

While Hunter took the blame and said, "That’s probably why we lost," it was Ausmus put on blast.

One thing is clear: The passion showed the first-year manager this was not the same Tigers town he left in 2000.

"I do think it was always there, but I think it's probably more out in the open now," said Ausmus, who played three seasons for the Tigers. "Nobody wants to cheer loudly for a team that's losing 100 games."

Contact David Briggs at: dbriggs@theblade.com, 419-724-6084 or on Twitter @DBriggsBlade.



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