June 6, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tigers 6, Red Sox 2

Tigers find their tonic against Red Sox, snap losing skid

Detroit — Hitting .181 since May 7, Torii Hunter needed it.

Without a win since May 3, Drew Smyly needed it, too.

As a rookie, Nick Castellanos welcomes any and all boosts, but now has given himself one with consecutive three-hit games.

And Joe Nathan? Never mind the fact it wasn’t a save situation. You know full well how much he needed a scoreless inning.

So does he.

“Baby steps,” Nathan said. “That’s what it’s all about, taking what you can from each day.”

But, let’s face it, all the Tigers needed a good game after a 4-13 stretch — and on Friday night, that’s exactly what they got and exactly what they played.

With six strong innings from Smyly (3-4), three hits apiece from Hunter and Castellanos and back-to-back home runs in the fifth from Ian Kinsler and Hunter, the Tigers stuck the Boston Red Sox with an efficient little 6-2 loss.

“Obviously we needed it,” Hunter said of the victory. “The last couple of days, you could see that maybe we didn’t have the same energy.

“But I tell you, what we’ve been through is going to make us stronger and have us smelling like roses.

“Now we know what a storm looks like, feels like, and we don’t want to taste that ever again.”

Both teams needed a win. The Tigers had lost five in a row and were mysteriously struggling after a 27-12 start that included a three-game sweep of these same Sox at Fenway Park.

One win doesn’t change the tense of what the Tigers have been through. It doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling anymore.

It just means they might not be.

“It’s a start,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s better than where we were. We took good swings.”

The Red Sox, meanwhile, appear to be in one those funks that has stamped them as a streaky team.

When they were 20-19 on May 14, they didn’t look particularly streaky, but since then they’ve lost 10 in a row, won seven in a row, and now have lost four in a row.

The Tigers wouldn’t mind making it five in a row.

In addition to the home runs by Kinsler and Hunter, Victor Martinez hit his 14th in the eighth, and while you might think his hits are automatic, even Miguel Cabrera had been scuffling a bit.

He was 1-for-16 in June when he singled in the fourth.

So it really was a team victory, but one that catcher Alex Avila missed the ending to — because he had to leave the game in the eighth after getting hit in the head by David Ortiz’s backswing.

“He’s in good humor, but he got stung pretty good,” Ausmus said. “They’re calling it a mild concussion, but regardless, he won’t play (Saturday).”

For as good a game as it turned out to be for the Tigers, the start of it was rocky.

Smyly trailed 1-0 after two batters — and with another two feet on Xander Bogaerts’ drive to left-center that hit above a sign on the wall, it would have been 2-0.

What Smyly had to establish, though — which he hadn’t done in Oakland two starts ago when he allowed four home runs or in his last start when he needed 105 pitches to get through four innings in Seattle — was that he could settle down.

Judging by the quality of pitches he threw to the 3-4-5 hitters in the Red Sox lineup with Bogaerts on second and no one out, he settled down quickly.

“He gave up a run in the first, but it didn’t rattle him,” Ausmus said. “He was much more efficient this time.”

“It feels good for the team because we’ve been in a rut lately,” Smyly said, “but it feels great for me, because I have been, too.

“This game will eat you alive if you let it.”

As one on whom the game has nibbled lately, Nathan felt good about his scoreless outing.

“One difference is that I stayed tall today,” he said, meaning that literally. “I think I’ve been forgetting that I’m 6-feet-4.

“Throwing downhill has always been my strength, so I tried to focus on staying over the rubber, staying tall. I’d gotten away from that.”

Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa (1-1) retired the first six batters he faced, but the Tigers’ first hit led to their first run as well — Andrew Romine following a double by Castellanos with a single in the third inning.

For the Tigers, it was the first of three consecutive innings in which they scored.

Their fourth inning had the look of one more substantial than it was — larger than a one-run inning, that is — what with four singles and two deep drives. And it would have been if Cabrera hadn’t been doubled off first on Martinez’s fly ball to deep center.

No harm done, though.

This time, the Tigers had a couple of runs to spare.


Tigers' Torii Hunter jokes around with Tigers' hitting coach Wally Joyner after hitting a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning against the Red Sox. Hunter's homer followed one by Ian Kinsler and put the Tigers ahead 4-1 Friday. Detroit went on to win 6-2 to end a five-game losing streak. / Elizabeth Conley / Detroit News