Ian Kinsler returns to Texas with first-place Tigers

Ian Kinsler isn’t sure what kind of reception he’ll receive in his return to Texas on Tuesday night. What is clear is the Detroit Tigers are getting the better of the deal that sent him out of town.

Kinsler seeks another strong series against the slumping Rangers after a good one over the weekend helped the Tigers regain control of the AL Central.

After making three All-Star teams and two World Series appearances in eight seasons with Texas, Kinsler rankled some fans by saying in an ESPN The Magazine story that he hoped his former club would go 0-162. Kinsler later said he was joking.

"If people actually read the article, I never said anything bad about the fans or my teammates or my coaching staff. It was all directed toward the front office," Kinsler told MLB’s official website.

"If people want to boo me for saying something bad about the front office, that’s their prerogative. I guess we’ll see."

Further irking Rangers fans is that trading Kinsler for Prince Fielder in November hasn’t worked out well. Fielder, signed through 2020 and owed more than $150 million, had three homers in 42 games before being lost for the season due to neck surgery.

While Texas (35-40) is 11 1/2 games out of first place in the AL West, Kinsler’s Tigers (40-32) have been atop the Central for most of the season. Their lead was gone after losing three straight to Kansas City last week, but Detroit took that series finale and swept three games in Cleveland to end the weekend with a 2 1/2-game lead.

Kinsler went 6 for 14 at Cleveland with three RBIs, four runs, his eighth homer and eighth steal. He also performed well against the Rangers in Detroit from May 22-25, going 8 for 17 with four doubles and four runs, but the Tigers lost three of four.

That was part of their major league-worst 9-20 record May 19-June 18. Their starters had a 5.76 ERA in that span but have a 1.38 ERA during the four-game win streak.

"We’re playing good baseball right now," Max Scherzer said after Sunday’s 10-4 win. "If we play good baseball and do the little things right, we’re as good as any team in the American League."

Miguel Cabrera has led the charge with five RBIs and five runs over the last four games, including his 13th homer Sunday. He’s batted .434 with 26 RBIs in his last 21 games in Arlington.

The Tigers have 21 runs and 34 hits over their last three games but rarely provide Drew Smyly with much help. Smyly (3-6, 3.48 ERA) enters with a 2.54 run support average and Detroit totaled one run in his last two starts. He lost both despite allowing three runs in 13 innings.

He’ll face a Rangers team which has lost 10 of 14 while batting .202 with runners in scoring position. Texas has lost a season-high five straight, totaling nine runs in the last four.

"The name of the game is scoring runs, and we’re not scoring," manager Ron Washington said. "When we start producing runs, we’ll be fine."

If people want to boo me for saying something bad about the front office, that’s their prerogative. I guess we’ll see.

Ian Kinsler

Colby Lewis (5-4, 5.97) hopes to produce his first quality start. He’s given up at least five runs in four of six and opposing batters are hitting .343 off Lewis, who has lasted six innings once in 12 outings.

He’s 3-2 with a 6.18 ERA in seven starts against the Tigers but beat them May 25, giving up two runs in 5 2-3 innings in a 12-4 win despite five walks.

While Kinsler is 0 for 6 off Lewis, Torii Hunter is 2 for 22 but should return after missing six games with a strained hamstring.

That doesn’t mean replacement J.D. Martinez will return to the bench because he’s batting .404 during a 12-game hitting streak, including four homers and 11 RBIs in the last seven.