DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers insisted they were not concerned about their worst skid of the year a few hours before playing the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox in a rematch of the AL championship series.
Detroit later showed it still has what it takes to win with strong pitching, big hits and usually sound defense.
Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter hit back-to-back homers in the fifth inning and Victor Martinez cleared the fences in the eighth, helping Detroit beat Boston 6-2 and end a season-high five-game losing streak Friday.
“This was a good night for everyone,” Drew Smyly said after pitching six strong innings.
Detroit had lost 13 of 17 games, including the previous four, since sweeping the Red Sox on the road a few weeks ago.
“I’ve spoken to players a couple times over this stretch,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “There’s no reason to throw a fit unless it’s a lack of effort or concentration. This stretch has not been caused by a lack of concentration or effort.”
Smyly (3-4) snapped a skid of his own. He was 0-2 in his last two starts, giving up a total of nine runs over nine innings, and was 0-3 in his previous six outings. The left-hander allowed two runs on five hits over six innings and struck out four, walking only one against the Red Sox.
“He was locating his pitches and keeping us off balance,” Boston center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. said after going 0 for 3 with three strikeouts. “He had command on both sides of the plate.”
Rubby De La Rosa, meanwhile, paid a steep price for letting some pitches sail too high.
De La Rosa (1-1) gave up four runs, nine hits and two walks. He had five strikeouts over 5 2-3 innings.
In his first start of the season, he threw seven scoreless innings against Tampa Bay last week.
“I feel almost 100 percent like last time,” De La Rosa said. “I just missed more pitches.”
Boston has lost four straight after winning seven in a row. The Red Sox are averaging fewer than three runs during the losing streak.
“Offensively, we’re scuffling,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “We’ve had a rough go with runners in scoring position.”
The Red Sox hope to end a trend this weekend.
In their last seven series, they been swept four times and have won each game in the other three matchups.
“We became so accustomed to being consistent,” Farrell said. “The last two and a half weeks have been difficult.”
Kinsler and Hunter cleared the fences during a three-pitch sequence in the fifth, giving the Tigers a 4-1 lead.
“They squared (De La Rosa) up when he was up in the strike zone,” Farrell said.
The Red Sox pulled within two runs in the sixth when Dustin Pedroia reached on Romine’s throwing error, advanced to third on David Ortiz’s single through the right side against a shifted infield and scored on Jonny Gomes’ sacrifice fly.
Detroit’s Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain each threw an inning of scoreless relief and Joe Nathan pitched the ninth in a non-save situation.
NOTES: Tigers C Alex Avila is expected to miss Saturday’s game after being hit in the head by Ortiz’s backswing in the eighth inning, and being replaced by Bryan Holaday. “He’s in a good humor, but he got stung pretty good,” Ausmus said. … Red Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn is expected to stay hospitalized in Cleveland for at least another week after he had bleeding in the area between his brain and the thin tissues covering it. Tim Hyers, Boston’s minor league hitting coordinator, is filling in for Colbrunn while he’s away from the team indefinitely. … Tigers SS Eugenio Suarez was held out of the lineup to rest his sore left knee and Ausmus said he is “hour to hour,” when asked for timetable on his return. … The Tigers will send RHP Max Scherzer (6-2) to the mound against Red Sox LHP Jon Lester (6-6) on Saturday in a nationally televised game. … Boston RHP Clay Buchholz (left knee) is scheduled to throw a simulated game Saturday in Detroit, where Mike Napoli, who is on the DL with a sprained left finger, is expected to hit against him.