Tigers top Indians, finish home stand strong

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Miguel Cabrera connects for a single to lead off the third inning.

Detroit — If panicking is your thing, even in April, even with the season not 15 percent complete, then, by all means, have at it. You just won't be joined at that dinner table by these Tigers.

These Tigers won't get riled up when they go 9-1, and these Tigers won't get riled up when they lose four straight.

"We face Major League Baseball pitchers, Major League Baseball teams," Jose Iglesias said. "Sometimes, things are not gonna go the way you want. We continue to stay positive and continue to battle each and every day."

Iglesias made the play of the game and perhaps his finest play of the season — and that's saying something with this cat, who made an over-the-shoulder grab in the ninth inning to thwart a late Indians rally and help preserve an 8-6 Tigers victory on a sunny Sunday at Comerica Park.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 8, Indians 6

Kyle Lobstein does what he always seems to do — give his team a chance to win — and Miguel Cabrera had another monster day against the Indians, with a homer and three RBIs, improving the Tigers to 10-2 against American League Central teams. The Tigers have yet to lose one of their four series against AL Central foes.

And there's more good news there: They now embark on a 10-game road trip on which they only will play AL Central teams (Minnesota, Kansas City, Chicago), and then come home for six more against division foes (Kansas City, Minnesota).

The Royals, of course, should be a really good test, the defending AL champs against the four-time defending division champs. The top teams in the standings, by far — the Tigers No. 1 after the Royals were swept by the White Sox in a Sunday doubleheader — they meet for the first time since September.

"Anytime you get a win against guys in your division, it helps a lot," said J.D. Martinez, who had a big, two-run double in the fifth inning.

With the win, the Tigers improved to 5-1 against the Indians — a team many experts pegged them for a breakout season.

It was the second consecutive win for the Tigers, after suffering four consecutive losses, including three to the Yankees.

Fans were anxious over the skid, having remembered how this team fell of a cliff after last year's hot start.

The Tigers, though, are as chill as can be.

"It's a little overblown," said manager Brad Ausmus, responding to a question about the Tigers' 5-5 home stand. "We weren't going to go 9-1 every 10 games.

"What's our record, now? Thirteen? So we've won 13 out of our last 19, that's how I look at it."

Kyle Lobstein pitches against the Yankees in the first inning Sunday.

Lobstein (2-1) struck out two of the first three Indians — and recorded an easy 1-2-3 first. Getting off to a good start has been an issue for him, but not on this day. And the Tigers seemed to seize that moment, with Rajai Davis, in the bottom of the first inning, leading off with a triple to right. He quickly scored on Ian Kinsler's single, and Kinsler scored on Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly.

Lobstein took that 2-0 lead and never relinquished it, attacking the Indians' lefty-heavy lineup with fastballs on the corners, after they got hip to his off-speed stuff during his first start of the season in Cleveland.

"He set the tone, right from the get-go" catcher James McCann said. "Next think you know, Raj leads off with a triple, we're up two runs, the momentum's in our favor."

Lobstein, filling in for Justin Verlander, has been a blessing for the Tigers. He's made three starts, winning two and giving the Tigers a chance to win the other one.

He's not a guy who will blow you away with heat, but he pitches to contact — and good thing for him, the Tigers defense is, for once, set up for pitchers who pitch to contact. Lobstein's teammates twice nabbed big runners at third base (both times, ex-Tiger Ryan Raburn), and Kinsler, Davis and Yoenis Cespdes each made highlight grabs.

That was all before Iglesias stole the show in the ninth inning.

"That was my mindset," Lobstein said. "Let the defense work for me."

Lobstein was strong through seven innings, tying the longest start of his career. He only had thrown 86 pitches, and he begged for a few more — but with three big right-handed hitters due up in the first four in the eighth inning, Ausmus went to the bullpen.

Angel Nesbitt mightily struggled, really for the first time this season. That brought on left-hander Blaine Hardy, with runners on the corners and one out — and Tiger killer Brandon Moss at the plate. Hardy got Moss to fly out, albeit deep to right, to make it 7-5, and then got Lonnie Chisenhall to pop out to end the inning.

Joakim Soria came on in the ninth inning and, while not perfect, got his seventh save in as many chances. He gave up a lead-off homer to Daniel Murphy, and then walked his first batter of 2015. But he got help from Iglesias' snazzy, over-the-shoulder catch on Mike Aviles' flyball to left field — a catch that had his teammates raving and shaking their heads afterward — and then got Michael Brantley, the potential tying run, on a grounder to short to end the ballgame.

And suddenly the Tigers are streaking again, positively this time.

"We had a little bit of a tough home stand. It didn't really go the way we wanted it to," Kinsler said. "But it ended with a win. We've got a happy flight tonight."