DETROIT (AP) — Ian Kinsler’s first few weeks with Detroit have been just what the Tigers were hoping for.
Kinsler homered and drove in four runs, and the Tigers held on for a 7-5 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.
Kinsler has settled into Detroit’s leadoff spot nicely after the Tigers traded Prince Fielder for him in the offseason. He hit his second homer of the season — a three-run shot in the fifth inning — and raised his average to .327.
“I’m playing ball, man — I love to play baseball,” Kinsler said. “I’m enjoying myself. I would like to win some more games, 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.”
Justin Verlander (2-1) allowed three unearned runs in five innings, and the Tigers trailed 3-1 before Kinsler’s homer off Danny Salazar (0-2).
Detroit never gave up the lead after scoring four runs in the fifth, although Cleveland’s Michael Brantley hit a two-run homer in the seventh to make it 6-5.
Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his second save in four chances. The Tigers used five relievers, trying to make it through the late innings with a bullpen that’s been shaky so far.
“I think as we go along here, we’ll start to learn when guys are going to go in the game and when their role is going to be called upon,” Nathan said. “That’ll help with preparation and getting yourself mentally ready to go in.”
There were four unearned runs in a sloppy game that included five errors, three by the Tigers.
Lonnie Chisenhall had four hits for the Indians, raising his average to .522.
Cleveland’s Jason Kipnis was ejected after striking out in the third inning. Kipnis struck out swinging with the bases loaded for the third out, then appeared to say something to plate umpire Lance Barrett, who immediately threw him out of the game.
“He was upset about the first pitch, and I agreed with him,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.
Cleveland opened the scoring in the fourth when Asdrubal Cabrera reached on a bunt single and went to second on a throwing error by Verlander. David Murphy drove him in with a single.
Austin Jackson’s sacrifice fly in the bottom half tied it, but Verlander allowed two more runs in the fifth. An error by third baseman Nick Castellanos kept the inning going, and Brantley’s bases-loaded single brought home two runs to make it 3-1.
Verlander allowed six hits and four walks. He struck out seven.
Salazar didn’t fare any better. His outing ended in the fifth when the Tigers took the lead. Kinsler hit a 3-1 pitch over the fence in left-center field, and Detroit added another run that inning on a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Jackson.
“I walked the first guy and then I started thinking about everything. I was trying to figure out if my arm was in the right slot, or if I had changed my delivery somehow, and then I was just lost,” Salazar said. “I was overthinking everything, and trying to make a perfect pitch. As soon as I started doing that, the ball was all over the place.”
Reliever C.C. Lee added to Cleveland’s problems in the sixth when his errant pickoff throw allowed Detroit’s Rajai Davis to go from first to third. Davis scored on a single by Kinsler.
Brantley’s homer in the seventh brought the Indians within one, and Cabrera nearly tied it when his drive down the line in left sailed just foul.
But the Tigers added a run in the eighth. Castellanos singled, and pinch-runner Andrew Romine stole second, advancing to third on a throwing error by catcher Yan Gomes. He scored when Davis beat out a two-out chopper for an infield single.
Salazar allowed five runs, six hits and three walks in 4 2-3 innings. He walked three and struck out three.
NOTES: Detroit’s Joba Chamberlain pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings in relief, striking out two. … Detroit hosts the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night, with LHP Drew Smyly (1-0) starting for the Tigers against RHP Jered Weaver (0-2). Cleveland hosts Toronto. The Indians start RHP Justin Masterson (0-0) against RHP Drew Hutchinson (1-1).