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Cespedes mammoth blast awakens Tigers bats in victory

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Boston – Yoenis Cespedes' brief, 51-game stint in Boston last season didn't go very well. He never seemed particularly comfortable here.

Well, he certainly made himself right at home Saturday.

He hit a 423-foot home run in the first off knuckleballer Steven Wright, a ball that hit the Advil sign way above the Green Monster in left-center field, starting the Tigers on their way to a 5-1 win over the Red Sox.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, Red Sox 1

"It seems like when guys get traded, they inevitably hit a home run against the team that traded him away," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He hit one against the Oakland (who traded him to Boston last year), too.

The home run seemed to break the seal for an offense that had scored one run in the previous 22 innings.

"It's comfortable for (starter) Alfredo Simon to go out with an early lead," said Nick Castellanos, who had a huge day himself. "And with a knuckleball pitcher, you see that and it gives the rest of us confidence that maybe it's hittable today."

Cespedes put on a defensive show, as well. Part of his discontent last season was the Red Sox insistence that he play right field. He's been one of the best defensive left fielders since coming to the big league and he showed them why he balked at the position change.

He threw out David Ortiz at home plate in the second inning. Ortiz was trying to score from second base on a single and had rounded third well before Cespedes picked up the ball. But he unleashed a howitzer that nailed Ortiz easily.

Since 2012, Cespedes has thrown out 44 runners, second only to Royals Alex Gordon (45).

He showed off his range in the third inning. Alejandro De Aza, Blake Swihart and Mookie Betts all hit shots to left – De Aza's was a low liner toward the gap, Swihart's a fly ball to the wall and Betts' a sinking liner.

Cespedes tracked and caught them all.

All that was before Castellanos blew the game open with two prodigious blasts.

He doubled in two runs off Wright in the fourth inning, hitting a ball to the cut-out in right-center field. Then he led off the sixth against reliever Noe Ramirez with a shot that not only cleared the Monster in left, but it cleared the stadium and landed on Lansdowne Street.

"To hit it over the Green Monster?" Castellanos said. "It's freakin' awesome. The Green Monster is a baseball icon. Everybody knows what you are talking about when you say the Monster. It's been in countless movies.

"I remember looking at this park when I was younger and seeing how tall the wall is and it's like, 'How does anybody hit it out of here?' To say I was able to do it is kind of cool."

The win snapped the Tigers four-game road losing streak.

"It's nice to get a win, but we've got to keep going," Ausmus said.

The only stress for the Tigers came in the seventh when Simon, who allowed just a run and five hits through six innings, injured his groin on his second pitch of the seventh.

"I think I will be OK," he said. "I never hurt my groin before. I decided to stop because I don't want it to get worse."

He first aggravated his groin the previous inning snaring a hard, comeback grounder from Ortiz. Catcher James McCann went out to check on him but he said he was OK, and he was able to finish the inning. But he bent over in pain after his second pitch of the seventh and was taken out.

"At this point I don't think there will be a DL stint," Ausmus said. "As far as making his next start, as of right this second the plan is that he will make his next start. We will know more tomorrow, but he seemed to think he'd be OK and (trainer) Kevin Rand thought so, too. They don't think it's anything major."

It would fit the profile of this season, though, if Simon did have to miss time just as he seemed to be getting back on track.

After giving up 32 runs in his previous six starts, Simon regained the sink on both his two-seam fastball and splitter.

"I just look at my video from two months ago," he said. "Every time I throw the ball down on my two-seamer and split, everything comes true. I feel very happy today. I am back to how I was."

Twitter @cmccosky

Jose Iglesias does a strength test on Yoenis Cespedes after Cespedes' homer in the first inning. The Tigers won 5-1.