Kinsler's two homers rescue Tigers
Detroit — It might just be one game in the middle of July.
Or it might be a kick-start to resuscitate the Tigers' season that had lapsed into purgatory.
Whatever it ends up being, Ian Kinsler's two-home run effort Monday night gave the Tigers a needed boost and kept their season on life support, at least for another day.
Kinsler blasted a dramatic, go-ahead two-run home run off Mark Lowe in the eighth inning that propelled the Tigers to a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park.
"It's instant pandemonium in the dugout as soon as it came off the bat of Kinsler," manager Brad Ausmus said. "To get a win would have injected some energy but to get that type of win certainly injected more."
On the heels of their two-game skid, the Tigers had fallen below .500 for the first time since 2010 and the prospects of turning their season around were unlikely, especially with a 1-39 record in games they trailed after the seventh inning.
"He made a mistake and I got a good pitch and I was lucky enough to put a good swing on it," Kinsler said. "You have to start somewhere. We're back to .500 and hopefully we can take off from here and get the ball rolling.
"You never know — you have to get ready for every game. Winning in this fashion doesn't guarantee anything tomorrow and you have to be ready to play."
The late-inning heroics bailed out starter Alfredo Simon, who had given up at least five earned runs in each of his last five outings — none more than 6-1/3 innings. Although he didn't have good control, Simon got through 5-2/3 innings and allowed four earned runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts.
Simon was struck on his pitching arm by a batted ball and wasn't the same afterwards, but fought through the contusion.
"Every game is big for us. Every time we go out there, we try to win, no matter what," Simon said. "Today, I felt comfortable on the mound and I gave up a couple runs but I felt better than the last couple of times out."
The Tigers jumped ahead in the first inning, as Kinsler hit his first home run of the game, off Mariners starter J.A. Happ. Simon made 14 pitches in the first inning, but labored in the second, as Seth Smith had a leadoff double to right-center, and after former Tiger Austin Jackson grounded out, Mark Trumbo walked and Logan Morrison loaded the bases with an infield single.
Mariners catcher Mike Zunino — who was hitting .158 entering the game — blasted a 2-run double to the wall in center field. Smith and Trumbo scored and Morrison ended up at third.
But Simon settled down and got Brad Miller to pop out and Kyle Seager to ground out to end the threat.
The Tigers responded in the third, after J.D. Martinez had a leadoff walk and Nick Castellanos had a one-out walk. James McCann powered a two-run double to left to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
From there, Simon seemed to find a groove, retiring the Mariners' 3-4-5 hitters on just six pitches in the third inning. He allowed back-to-back walks to Morrison and Zunino but Miller grounded into a fielder's choice to finish the fourth.
Between the third and fifth innings, Simon allowed just two walks and no hits in facing 10 hitters. The streak ended on Robinson Cano's home run in the fifth, tying it at 3.
"He was a little erratic with his location and he had a little trouble repeating his release point," Ausmus said. "His forearm tightened up and he said he couldn't throw his breaking balls the last half of his outing. That contributed to some of the control issues."
Ausmus said there's no long-term concern about Simon's bruised arm and that he should be ready for his next scheduled start this weekend. But seeing him fight through the injury was a good step forward for Simon.
"It was a better outing overall. I think he can be sharper like he was earlier in the season," Ausmus said.
In the sixth, the Mariners rallied, with Jackson's leadoff single to center field. He stole second and almost was doubled off on Morrison's liner to Kinsler at second base, but was able to get back to the base before Kinsler's throw.
The Tigers challenged whether Jackson got back in time, but the call was upheld after a three-minute review and Jackson moved to third on a wild pitch by Simon and scored on Zunino's single to left, which ended the night for Simon.
Joakim Soria pitched a 1-2-3 ninth and got his 21st save.
But Kinsler provided the pick-me-up that could salvage the season — if the Tigers can build off it. A pregame meeting, led by Kinsler, might have tilted some of the positive vibes for the team, starting in the clubhouse.
"Good teams are positive; good teams talk to each other throughout the game in the dugout, on the field or wherever it may be. That's something that needs to continue in here; we can't stop doing that just because we hit a little bit of a rough stretch," Kinsler said. "We have to continue to support each other — and crazier things have happened. We're still a long ways from this season being over.
"There's always something every year that happens in baseball that surprises people, so why not us?"