Steady from the start, clutch Kinsler guides Tigers

April 6th, 2016

MIAMI -- The shiny, multicolored cleats made Ian Kinsler impossible to miss in his first at-bat Tuesday night. They were shiny enough that they reflected the South Florida sunlight as he rounded first base on his leadoff single.

They also were slippery, which is why he changed cleats after that. He didn't need them to stand out by the end of the Tigers' 8-7, 11th-inning win over the Marlins. His tracks were all over this game.

Kinsler was charged up when his three-run home run in the second inning gave the Tigers' a 4-0 lead, following Justin Verlander's two-out single to extend the threat. He was just as emotional nearly three hours and seven Marlins runs later, when he singled in the go-ahead run to salvage a rollercoaster game.

Kinsler's teammates wore that passion with him. It helped them survive what should've been a crushing Marlins comeback from five runs down in the sixth, then three runs down in the ninth.

"You have to start grinding again," Kinsler shrugged. "It's a 0-0 game, and the next team to score is probably going to win. You have to flip the switch quick. It's tough, because it takes the wind out of your sails, but you have to come in and be ready for your at-bats, be ready defensively and continue to try to win the game. ...

"It's always tough to flush something like that. But I think we have a lot of guys on this team with experience. The more experience you have, the more times you've been in that situation and what it takes to get over that hump."

It wasn't just the ninth inning that was flushed. Was there anything reminiscent of last season in the Marlins' rally off Francisco Rodriguez, or the runs posted beforehand?

"We don't want to really discuss anything that happened last year," Kinsler said. "This team's completely different. I'm sure the fans would love for us to talk about last year, but it's not last year. It's this year. It's 2016, not 2015. In the first game, something like that happens, people are going to talk about it, and people are going to make a big deal out of it. We have 161 games left. We completely trust Francisco Rodriguez.

New-look bullpen, same old struggles?

"Frankie, he's the guy we want in the ninth inning. He's proven it in time. It just so happened it was on Opening Day."

Kinsler's success Tuesday seemed more than coincidence. His three-hit game included the fourth Opening Day home run of his career, but his first as a Tiger. His last season-opening homer was in 2012 as a Texas Ranger. His 11th-inning single off Marlins lefty Craig Breslow was the seventh extra-inning go-ahead hit of his career, four of which have come as a Tiger.