Ian Kinsler’s weekend meltdown was a microcosm of the frustrations the Detroit Tigers have endured this season.
They’re hoping his two-homer game provides a spark for better things to come as the Tigers continue their four-game series with the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Kinsler was ejected for slamming his bat to the ground and then slamming the handle down after the bat broke during a flyout in a 9-3 loss to Baltimore on Sunday, a defeat which dropped Detroit (46-46) below .500 for the first time this season.
The reigning four-time AL Central champion – plagued by injuries and inconsistency as it tries to overcome a 9 1/2-game deficit to Kansas City in the division – returned to the break-even mark Monday night when Kinsler’s eighth-inning, go-ahead two-run shot provided a 5-4 victory over Seattle (42-51).
"It’s always fun to win a game late," Kinsler said. "You have to start somewhere, and hopefully we can take off from here and get the ball rolling."
While it was a rare power surge for Kinsler, who entered the game with three homers, he has been hitting the ball better. The second baseman is 12 for 30 with three homers, three doubles and a 1.238 OPS in his last eight games.
Kinsler and the Tigers look to extend the woes of Taijuan Walker (7-7, 4.84 ERA), who is hoping the All-Star break provided a clean slate after he struggled in his final two starts on the heels of winning his previous five. He was ripped for seven runs in five-plus innings in a 10-3 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on July 12.
The Tigers also roughed up Walker in his only appearance against them July 7. Nick Castellanos, Marc Krauss and Alex Avila all homered as the right-hander allowed five runs in six innings of Seattle’s 7-6, 11-inning victory. Walker, though, carries a four-start road winning streak into Comerica Park, posting a 1.04 ERA during that run.
"My last two starts weren’t the best, (I’m) going to be confident and focused," Walker said. "I was getting behind everyone and throwing fastballs in hitters’ counts. When I get ahead early, I can extend the zone a lot."
Detroit hops Shane Greene (4-7, 6.32) can end his struggles and avoid becoming the first Tigers pitcher to lose six consecutive starts since Rick Porcello in 2012. He’s been provided only two runs of support during his losing streak, but Greene has done himself no favors with a 12.57 ERA while giving up eight homers and 36 hits overall in 19 1-3 innings over those five starts.
That stretch was interrupted by a demotion to the minors, and his longball struggles surfaced again July 12 in his first start after being recalled. Greene, who opened the season 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in his first three starts, yielded two homers among his seven hits and gave up seven runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 7-1 defeat at Minnesota.
"My pregame bullpen was really, really good. I’ve just got to do a better job of taking that into the game with me," said Greene, winless since May 15.
Facing a resurgent Robinson Cano won’t help. The second baseman lashed an opposite-field homer Monday and is 5 for 11 with three home runs in his last three games.
"He’s starting to come around, driving the ball, it’s good to see," manager Lloyd McClendon said.
Cano has hit .400 with three homers in seven games against Detroit since the start of 2014.