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CLEVELAND — The Detroit Tigers started out strong Thursday night. Nine innings later, they finished even stronger.
After scoring four times in the first innings, the Tigers’ offense went into a slumber until the 11th when it broke through for seven runs in an 11-4 win over the Cleveland Indians.
“It was a little bit of a dogfight,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “We jumped out to the early lead and felt pretty good about it and they fought their way all the way back. It became a battle to the end.”
Eugenio Suarez’s two-run single and Victor Martinez’s three-run homer highlighted the late eruption, which didn’t seem like it would be necessary about four hours earlier.
“I was just trying to survive,” Martinez said. “I went up there like I always go, just trying to be a tough out and put a good swing on it.”
The Tigers sent 10 men to the plate in the first and 11 batted in the final inning.
Cleveland chipped away against defending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer and tied the score against the Tigers’ bullpen in the seventh.
Phil Coke (4-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings.
Josh Tomlin (6-9) gave up five runs and three hits in one-third of an inning.
Detroit, which holds the American League’s second wild-card spot, won three of four in the crucial series to pull one game behind Kansas City in the AL Central. Cleveland is six games out in the division and five games back for a wild card.
J.D. Martinez’s three-run homer in the ninth off closer Cody Allen gave Detroit a 4-2 win Tuesday.
“Two very good wins that we’ve had in the last three days,” Ausmus said. “Two of the better ones I think we’ve had all year.”
Tomlin, who returned to the team Tuesday after being on the paternity list as his wife gave birth to their first child, issued a one-out walk to Rajai Davis in the 11th. Ian Kinsler’s blooper then fell between right fielder Tyler Holt and second baseman Jason Kipnis, and Holt’s throw to third was late, allowing Kinsler to take second.
Ezequiel Carrera was intentionally walked to load the bases before Suarez, who pinch-ran for Miguel Cabrera in the 10th, lined an 0-1 pitch to left.
Martinez followed with his 29th homer, a line drive to right. Andrew Romine, who grounded out to start the inning, added a two-run single.
Scherzer staggered through six innings, allowing three runs and throwing 124 pitches before being pulled.
“Absolute physical grind for me,” he said. “Didn’t pitch efficiently, fell behind in counts. Battled as hard as I could. Pitched as deep as I could even when my pitch count ran up as high as it did.”
Michael Brantley’s seventh-inning double tied the score.
The Tigers scored in the first on Trevor Bauer’s wild pitch, Bryan Holaday’s two-run single and Davis’ RBI single.
OF Torii Hunter didn’t start after fouling a ball off his left foot in the first inning Wednesday. He struck out as a pinch-hitter in the sixth, but didn’t stay in the game defensively.
1B/DH Victor Martinez was named the AL Player of the Month for August after batting .350 with six homers and a league-leading 30 RBI.
“Victor goes through periods when it looks like he’s playing softball,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He goes up there and swings as hard as he can and he rarely misses. That’s not a good feeling.”
Tigers: C Alex Avila missed his second straight game after being hit in the mask by a foul ball Tuesday. “It was a little bit of a lingering side effect from the head shot, so we’re going to give him another day,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
Tigers: Detroit returns home Friday to begin a three-game interleague series against San Francisco, the first time the teams have met since the Giants swept the 2012 World Series. RHP Rick Porcello (15-9) starts for Detroit against RHP Jake Peavy (4-13).