Tigers head into off-day with momentum at Twins’ expense

The Tigers get to settle in Thursday for their first off-day in the middle of a homestand this year. It’s just their second off-day at home this season, and their first day off of any kind in 2 ½ weeks. It will be coming off a four-game winning streak.

If they had been off Monday, coming off a 2-5 road trip and 11 losses in their previous 13 games, they would’ve been hearing about it for close to 48 hours before they could take the field. The frustration would’ve had that much more time to percolate, the attention that much more time to hone in on Ausmus, fair or not.

As they filed out of the clubhouse for some badly needed rest, it was a much different feeling around the club than when they came in a couple days earlier.

“It’s nice to get a win,” Ian Kinsler said, “but we just have to remember where we’re at as a team and make sure we don’t lose the energy that we have. You don’t want it to affect the energy and what we have going, going into Friday. You want to make sure that everyone remembers what we’re doing, how you felt when you’re in here, and bring that on Friday.”

This was the stretch the Tigers needed to reach to catch a breath after a stretch against teams that wore them down, from Max Scherzer’s 20-strikeout game a week ago to a pesky Texas lineup to scoreless performances from Corey Kluber in Cleveland to Chris Tillman in Baltimore.

As much as the Tigers respect the Twins for the leap they made last season, they also match up well against them, having swept them in Minnesota at the end of April. They did it again the last few days, outscoring Minnesota by a 23-15 margin. The lack of timely hitting that dogged them in Baltimore, Washington and Cleveland wasn’t a factor, nor were the pitching issues that seemed to pop up in a different inning each time out.

“It was always one part of our game that was hurting us, or beating us, whether it was the bullpen one day, or starting pitching one day, or the offense one day,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Now we’re getting those things to work together. We’re getting the runs. Our starters are going deep into games, and the bullpen is keeping the lead.”

Another three-game series against a team without a winning record awaits with the Rays coming to town. They’ll get a test against the surprisingly resurgent Phillies next week, then hit the road for a six-game West Coast trip to the sub-.500 Athletics and Angels.

Add in a makeup game against the last-place Yankees, and the Tigers won’t face another first-place team until the White Sox come to town the first weekend in June. They have two weeks to then to build up their record and their confidence.

“I haven’t really seen that we’ve really been down,” bench coach Gene Lamont said Tuesday, “but you keep thinking this thing’s gotta turn around. If it doesn’t, you just keep waiting and waiting. Hopefully it has.”

They sound like a team not lacking in confidence that they can turn it around, even though they remain two games under .500 for now.

“The easiest thing to forget is this is a 162-game season,” Justin Verlander said. “Even the best of teams go through stretches.”

Thursday is their chance to stretch out and relax. Come Friday, they’ll try to stretch out their winning streak.

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