DETROIT — For a fleeting moment, they were the Detroit Tigers, heavyweight contenders.
They played good defense. Outstanding, really, with Jose Iglesias making catches over his shoulder and Justin Upton making catches over the left-centerfield wall.
They pitched well. Great, really, with Daniel Norris throwing dirty stuff at Rays hitters, for the first time this season parlaying his strikeout stuff with the efficiency to pitch deep into the game.
They hit well. Like they should be, really, pounding the baseball all around Comerica Park. Alex Avila and Justin Upton. Miguel Cabrera and J.D. Martinez. Nick Castellanos, too.
The Tigers looked like a darn good team Friday night. In perhaps their best all-around game of the season, they dominated the Rays, 13-4, for their second straight win.
It began with Kinsler, who foreshadowed the festivities with a solo home run to open the bottom of the first inning. It was Kinsler’s third leadoff home run of the season – his second against Tampa Bay right-hander Erasmo Ramirez – and 43rd of his career, ranking sixth all-time in Major League history.
Norris would give the lead back but after the Tigers came to the plate in the fourth inning, the game would be out of reach.
In the fourth, Avila opened the inning with his 10th home run of the season, a solo shot, before the merry-go-round began. Cabrera walked. Martinez singled. Upton hit a line drive to centerfield so hard, it confused centerfielder Mallex Smith and fell over his head for an RBI double. Castellanos doubled home two more. James McCann hit a sacrifice fly.
The Tigers were feeling it at that point and took their fortunes into the field the next half inning. In the top of the fifth, on back-to-back plays, Iglesias caught a pop up over his shoulder sprinting into left-centerfield and Upton reached above the wall to rob Corey Dickerson of a home run.
They would score five more runs in the fifth, when Upton added two more on a single and Jose Iglesias one more on another. They totaled 13 hits, with four batters recording two apiece. Upton drove in three runs and Castellanos four.
It was plenty for Norris, who didn’t go quite as deep as he would have liked but was still effective. The lefty threw six-plus innings, allowing three runs on eight hits. He walked one and struck out eight.
Norris’ first blemish came when Castellanos committed a throwing error trying to nab a runner from third base at home plate in the third inning. On the play, Castellanos’ throw sailed wide to the foul side of home plate. It was his 13th error of the season.
With the win, the Tigers improve to 32-34. They stand 3 1/2 games behind the Twins in the still-too-early American League Central division standings.