Early homer parade lifts Tigers over Rays

Detroit belts three homers in opening frame to back dominant Scherzer

Early homer parade lifts Tigers over Rays

DETROIT -- The seagulls that flock around Comerica Park every summer returned with a vengeance on Thursday night, cluttering the outfield around game time and flying in the way of outfielders. Three Tigers first-inning home runs later, they were gone for the night, seemingly flummoxed by the sudden air traffic.

It was a different take on pest control. It was a more familiar take on rally construction.

"With this team and the firepower we have, if we can come ready every pitch and every inning, we can put up crooked numbers at any point in the game," said Ian Kinsler, whose two-run homer began the five-run onslaught in an 8-1 win over the Rays. "Tonight it just happened to be the first."

Gone, too, were any thoughts that the momentum the Tigers built from sweeping the AL-best Athletics this week would be stunted by Tampa Bay. They briefly surfaced with a game-opening run. By inning's end, it seemed like madness for the birds.

"It's not the end of the world that they score first," said Victor Martinez, whose two-run homer in his return to the lineup followed Kinsler's damage. "We went out there like we always do -- stick with our approach, be a tough out and see what happens."

Not long after the birds left, so did Rays starter Erik Bedard with six runs over two innings, allowing Max Scherzer to cruise to his 10th win of the year and Detroit's 12th victory in its last 14 games.

At 48-34, the Tigers moved to 14 games over .500 for the first time since May 17, the day before they completed a series sweep in Boston to complete a 27-12 start. They left Beantown wearing Zubaz, then tumbled into a 9-20 slump in which their rotation and lineup both seemingly fell apart.

Thursday was the latest example of the two aspects seemingly working in tandem again. No sooner had Scherzer returned to the dugout in the first, having given up a Desmond Jennings double and an Evan Longoria sacrifice fly, than the Tigers put him on top for good.

When Detroit struggled through June, they sometimes let struggling pitchers linger long enough to find their better form. They were coolly efficient Thursday.

They hadn't put up three home runs in an inning since last September. The last time they homered three times in the first inning, they were beating up on Mark Prior and the Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 18, 2006.

Prior was making another comeback attempt at the time, beginning what ended up being his final Major League season at age 26. For the 35-year-old Bedard, his effort to help fill a hole in the injury-depleted Rays rotation has been a battle.

He has had his struggles, but entered Thursday with seven home runs allowed over 72 2/3 innings, just under a home run for every nine innings. Like his pitches off the bats, the average jumped.

"Nothing was really there for him, and they just jumped all over it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Everything they hit was right on the screws."

Kinsler, bumped down to the second spot this week with Austin Jackson leading off, rewarded Jackson for his leadoff single by punishing a hanging changeup in a 3-1 count. Miguel Cabrera's walk set up Martinez, who showed no signs of the left side soreness that sidelined him three games as he turned on an 88-mph fastball.

"I think he was just up in the zone," Martinez said of Bedard. "He's a guy that's been around the league for a long time. Like I always say, I'd rather be lucky than good."

The sigh of relief from Bedard over J.D. Martinez's well-struck flyout, his first out of the game, lasted just two pitches before Torii Hunter took him deep for his 10th homer of the season.

Ten of Detroit's first 14 hitters reached base safely on Bedard, who didn't get a swing-and-miss until his final batter of the night. Cesar Ramos slowed the damage, but Cabrera scored Detroit's final three runs for the third four-run game of his career.

Meanwhile, Scherzer (10-3) kept sending his offense back to the plate. Though Longoria's sac fly opened the scoring, it began a stretch in which Scherzer retired 23 of 24 batters, seven of them by strikeout. In the end, the Tigers' seven-run lead killed his chances for a second complete game in four starts.

Still, Scherzer has allowed four earned runs on 15 hits over 21 innings in three starts since the Royals rocked him for 10 runs two weeks ago.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.