July 3, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tigers 8, Rays 1

Tigers win fourth straight in romp over Rays

Tigers talk about the win
Tigers talk about the win: Manager Brad Ausmas and DH Victor Martinez on 8-1 win over Rays.

Detroit — Visiting managers don’t leave messages for each other — or notes.

But if Bob Melvin of the departing Oakland Athletics had left anything behind for Joe Maddon of the arriving Tampa Bay Rays, it would have been this warning: “Beware, hot team.”

Hot, sizzling, surging, whatever you want to call them, the Tigers fit the description again – with a four-game winning streak after Thursday night’s 8-1 victory, plus 12 wins in their last 14 games.

Then again, Tampa Bay was supposed to be hot as well.

But the Tigers carved them up, especially in the early innings, as if the Rays’ five-game winning streak was no obstacle at all.

And to tell you the truth, it wasn’t.

With the Tigers jumping on starter Erik Bedard (4-6) for three home runs in the first inning — Ian Kinsler followed by Victor Martinez followed by Torii Hunter — the Tigers staked Max Scherzer to a fast four-run lead.

And never looked back.

“Three home runs out of the gate doesn’t guarantee a win,” said manager Brad Ausmus, “but you feel good about putting runs up early.”

You also feel good about getting back your cleanup hitter.

No sooner had Martinez returned to the starting lineup from missing the last three games with a sore side than he was rounding the bases after hitting his 21st home run.

Not picking up precisely where he left off — a good thing since he went 1-for-12 in Houston — Martinez took Bedard deep to left-center with Miguel Cabrera on first via a walk.

That’s after Kinsler had connected following a leadoff single by Austin Jackson, whose return to the top of the lineup has paid recent dividends.

Jackson had three hits on Wednesday and added another two in this game. Five Tigers had two hits, with Cabrera alone at three.

“Up and down the lineup, everyone did pretty well,” said Ausmus. “The last couple of days (Jackson) has looked outstanding at the plate.

“He’ll be at leadoff again tomorrow. One day at a time.”

After four batters in the bottom of the first, the Tigers led 4-1. A sacrifice fly after a leadoff double in the top of the inning had put the Rays on the board against Scherzer – who blanked them from that point through the eighth for his 10th win.

Any conversation about which of the Tigers’ pitchers should make the All-Star team certainly has to include Scherzer, who at 10-3 is back on track after being off it while the Tigers were going 9-20.

The start in which Scherzer allowed 10 runs in four innings against Kansas City seems a lot longer ago than June 17, however.

Against the Rays, Scherzer allowed two hits, one walk and struck out seven. But he also proved that a starter can bounce back from allowing a leadoff double and pitch a masterpiece.

“One of the better outings with his slider all year,” said Ausmus. “Nothing he threw up there wasn’t good, but I thought his slider was the pitch that stood out.”

“I was able to stay in counts that were favorable to me,” Scherzer said. “But actually it was more my change-up.”

Tampa Bay’s only hit after their game-opening double was a harmless two-out single by James Loney in the fourth.

Before that hit, Scherzer retired 10 in a row, and after it, he retired 13 in a row. But at 106 pitches after eight innings, there simply was no need for him to continue.

“Nothing good could come out of sending him back out,” said Ausmus. “He’d done his job.”

“I was prepared to go 120,” Scherzer said, “but the right decision was made. There was no reason for added stress on my arm.”

Speaking of jobs, this wasn’t the most difficult game for Ausmus, either,

“The only thing I really had to do,” he said, “was to put Donnie Kelly in the on-deck circle while Nick (Castellanos) was in the bathroom.”

Two home runs into the first inning, the Tigers weren’t quite done with Bedard, who would exit after the second.

With one out, Torii Hunter hit a solo shot, and in the second, J.D. Martinez joined the run-producing parade with a single that drove in Cabrera, who had doubled.

The Tigers made it 7-1 in the fourth on three singles — Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Hunter in that order.

And Cabrera scored the game’s final run in the sixth when Victor Martinez singled him to third and J.D. Martinez followed with a fielder’s choice grounder.

By 9:50 p.m., the game had ended — after looking all but over two hours earlier.



A bird flies in front of right fielder Torii Hunter as he throws the ball back into the infield Thursday at Comerica Park. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News