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Tigers' lineup comes through in win over Indians

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DETROIT, MI - JUNE 16: Don Kelly #32 of the Detroit Tigers high fives Alex Avila #13 after scoring a first inning run while playing the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on June 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - JUNE 16: Don Kelly #32 of the Detroit Tigers high fives Alex Avila #13 after scoring a first inning run while playing the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park on June 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Final - 6.16.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Cleveland Indians 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 0
Detroit Tigers 2 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 X 6 13 2
WP: Max Scherzer (9 - 2)
LP: Mitch Talbot (2 - 4)

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BOX

KEY STAT

Jhonny Peralta, 2 hits, fourth inning HR was the game-winning run

KEY PLAY

Al Alburquerque gets a pop-out to end the sixth inning after Max Scherzer loads the bases. Due to the four-run lead, it wasn't a completely stressful situation, but it was quite important to keep the Indians from clawing at some late-game momentum.

KEY THOUGHTS

It threatened to be a long day when Max Scherzer gave up a pair of runs in the first. And then the Tigers threatened to make it a short day for Mitch Talbot when the first four batters reached base safely against him. But after a 2-2 first inning things quieted down until Jhonny Peralta and Ryan Raburn (!) hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez drove in an extra pair of runs in the fifth inning to make it 6-2, and that's where it stayed.

I worried a bit that Detroit would suffer the same fate as it did on Wednesday after it failed to take advantage of Talbot early. We've seen this before, where the first inning or two sees the Tigers jump out to a lead only to stall out and either lose or barely hold on. Fortunately, all the different parts of the lineup found some success to put the game into safe territory.

Don Kelly and Brennan Boesch combined for five hits at the 2 and 3 spots in the lineup. The middle of the order drove in some runs. And the bottom of the order had a pair of key home runs. Top to bottom, Detroit got it done.

The Tigers are now 26-14 in their last 40 games to give them the third-best record in the American League. Actually, this might surprise you, but Detroit started 2010 with the same 38-31 record. In 2009, the team started ... 38-31. They're two games worse than 2007 and 7 worse than 2006 if you enjoy such trivia.

But I think the key difference this year is that they've managed to start the season that way while finishing up their schedule against New York, Boston, Tampa and (all but one game against) Toronto. In prior years they still had to face those teams in the second half, often on the road. So right now, the Tigers' remaining opponents have the worst combined winning percentage of any team in the Central Division (.476 per CoolStandings.com). Sure it's still a tad early, but that's the kind of stat you hope to see when you're in first.