The Texas Rangers didn’t have room for Ian Kinsler and the Tigers couldn’t be happier about it.
Kinsler, who turned 32 Sunday, was traded to the Tigers in the offseason for Prince Fielder so the Rangers could have room for both Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar in their infield.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, both Fielder and Profar are out for the season with neck and shoulder injuries, respectively.
Meanwhile, Kinsler has done everything the Tigers had hoped for and more.
He played a key role in the Tigers’ 8-2 victory over his former team, the Tigers’ fifth straight victory.
When Kinsler came to the plate for his first at-bat, there were many Rangers fans who cheered for him.
"The fans’ reaction was good," Kinsler told FOX Sports Detroit’s Trevor Thompson. "It was exciting, it was fun. It was a good moment and I’ll remember it."
It was Kinsler who got the Tigers on the board in the first inning, homering off Colby Lewis. Kinsler already has nine home runs after hitting 13 last season.
Kinsler had a big smile on his face as he rounded the bases and even waved to the Rangers’ dugout.
"It was nothing personal at all," Kinsler said. "I was having a good time. It was my return home. To get lucky enough to square one up like that and have it go over the fence, it was a good feeling and I was just having fun."
FOX Sports Detroit analyst Craig Monroe spoke with Kinsler before the game and was not surprised by his home run.
"I could feel that he was super excited about coming home," Monroe said. "He couldn’t wait to get to the ballpark and it showed. He started the party extremely early going deep."
Starter Drew Smyly was happy for the early support.
"That’s awesome," Smyly said. "I bet he’s loving that. It’s good for him. He set the tone, got us on the board early and then from there it was a good game ’til about the seventh. We were able to get some big hits and break it open."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus noted that some of those cheering for Kinsler early changed their tune later.
"It was funny because it seemed like with every at-bat, it went from mixed boos and cheers to more boos every at-bat, deeper in the game for him," Ausmus told Thompson. "I’m sure that the Rangers fans appreciate what he did here, he was an All-Star here and they went to the World Series so they certainly have fond memories of Ian Kinsler here."
To get lucky enough to square one up like that and have it go over the fence, it was a good feeling and I was just having fun.
The Tigers scored five runs in the seventh without Kinsler’s help but Kinsler wasn’t done.
In the eighth, Kinsler hit a two-run single to score both Alex Avila and Eugenio Suarez for an 8-1 lead.
"He’s got good velocity, I faced (Aaron Poreda) in Detroit and he threw me a couple really good pitches so I was just ready for the first pitch and trying to get a fastball out of the at-bat and I was able to get a good enough pitch there to lift it over the infield," Kinsler said.
After his 2-for-5, 3-RBI night, Kinsler is batting .295 with nine home runs and 38 RBI.
Last season Omar Infante batted .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBI in 118 games. This season with the Kansas City Royals, Infante is batting .246 with four home runs and 34 RBI.
The Tigers enjoyed having Infante but they’re definitely pleased with what Kinsler has brought to the table.
"We were all happy for him," Avila told Thompson on the field after the game. "He’s such a big part of our team now and he’s such a good baseball player, good, all-around player. We’re thrilled to have him. He’s just really important to us."