DETROIT — Brandon Inge rounded third base, tossed his helmet joyfully in the air and then did a little spin as he jumped into a big group of teammates at the plate.
After a shaky start the season, the Detroit Tigers finally won a series — and against the defending American League champions.
Inge hit a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Tigers beat the Texas Rangers in their last at-bat for the second straight day, 3-2 on Wednesday. Detroit took two of three from Texas and improved to 5-7 on the season.
“Maybe this can jump-start us and get us going,” Inge said.
With one out, Inge hit the first pitch from Darren Oliver (1-1) over the left-field wall. The previous day, Detroit beat the Rangers 5-4 on a ninth-inning single by Miguel Cabrera.
“It looked like a slider down the middle,” Inge said. “I knew he had thrown me a couple of those yesterday or the day before, but I wasn’t really looking for any pitch. I just wanted something over the middle.”
Texas star Josh Hamilton broke his arm Tuesday, and the AL MVP could miss two months. The Rangers took a 2-0 lead without him, but Detroit’s Victor Martinez and Brennan Boesch led off the bottom of the sixth with back-to-back doubles. Boesch eventually scored to make it 2-all on Inge’s sacrifice fly.
“I thought that was really a good game,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “We knew it might be hard to score runs, because they were going to be using a lot of pitchers, and that makes it tough on the hitters. You don’t get into a rhythm against one guy when you are seeing a lot of them.”
Texas used five pitchers, getting only three innings out of spot starter Dave Bush. The Rangers’ rotation has been taxed because of a doubleheader Saturday.
Bush, in his first appearance of the season, kept Detroit off the scoreboard, but he allowed three hits and three walks and threw 71 pitches.
“My pitch count was awfully high for three innings,” Bush said. “That was the determining factor in me coming out. It’s been so long since I’ve pitched, I really didn’t want to go out and blow it out in the first time out. … I’ll take the three zeros.”
Bush made a nice play in the second when he fell to the ground while fielding a grounder by Alex Avila and was still able to throw home in time to catch Boesch trying to score from third. After loading the bases with two walks, Bush got Will Rhymes to ground out to end the inning.
Hamilton was injured the previous day while being thrown out at the plate when he tagged up on a foul popup. Manager Ron Washington said before the game his team wouldn’t be any less aggressive on the bases, and Texas stole three bases Wednesday.
The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the sixth. With a runner on second, Nelson Cruz hit a line drive toward shortstop Jhonny Peralta — but Adrian Beltre was right in front of Peralta, screening him before sprawling on the ground to avoid being hit. The ball skipped past Peralta for a single, scoring Beltre.
David Murphy added a run-scoring single. Both Texas runs in that inning scored on singles after runners moved from first to second on wild pitches.
Detroit starter Max Scherzer went six innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and walked two. Brayan Villarreal pitched the seventh and eighth for the Tigers.
Jose Valverde (2-0) pitched a scoreless top of the ninth.
“We had the AL champs in here, and played three great games against them, and won the last two in the ninth inning,” Leyland said. “That’s something that will get the fans excited, and that’s something we all want.”
NOTES: Texas RHP Colby Lewis’ wife Jenny gave birth to daughter Elizabeth Grace on Wednesday. … Murphy started in left field, Hamilton’s normal spot. He stole two bases, although he was also thrown out on the bases in the sixth. With men on first and third, Scherzer stepped toward third and threw to first, trapping baserunner Julio Borbon off the base. Murphy broke from third to home and was thrown out easily. … The Tigers were again without OF Magglio Ordonez, who has been having problems with his surgically repaired right ankle. … Detroit optioned RHP Robbie Weinhardt to Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers expect to call up RHP Alberto Albuquerque on Thursday.