"We started off this trip by losing four out of five [to Tampa Bay and Cleveland]. So, anytime you can finish by winning four out of five, that's great."
The Tigers indeed rallied for such an ending, taking the last two games for a series split in Cleveland and then winning two of three in Arlington. If not for Nate Robertson's six-run, no-out debacle of a start in Tuesday's series opener, the Tigers would have easily stormed to their first three-game sweep in Arlington since 2001.
As it was, they outscored the Rangers 28-8 in the three-game series. They outscored their opponents 81-54 on the 10-game sojourn. And they hit a jaw-dropping .346 (135-for-390) over the course of the trip.
That's all well and good, and it certainly helps to have hitters up and down the batting order feeling confident as the formidable New York Mets come to town. But perhaps a grain of salt should be taken, considering the pitching staff those Tiger hitters just fattened up against.
Rangers starter Kameron Loe (1-6) was the victim Thursday. He did give up nine hits of the Tigers' 17 hits in just 2 2/3 innings, including two triples by Curtis Granderson.
But Loe's cause was not helped by sloppy play and poor decisions by the defense behind him. Though only one error was charged, the Rangers (21-39) demonstrated several times why they are ranked as the second-worst defensive team in the Majors. Loe perhaps deserved a better fate than to have been battered for nine earned runs before exiting to boos.
"I actually like that guy they pitched tonight," Leyland said. "It might look like he had a terrible night. He really didn't pitch in good luck tonight. But he has a real good sinker."
Nevertheless, Loe's ERA climbed from 6.37 to 7.40. That swelled the ERA of Texas' starting pitchers to 6.98. The worst ERA by a starting rotation in the last 50 years was the 6.64 mark of the 1996 Tigers, but that notorious record is under serious assault.
Things almost certainly will be tougher for Detroit during the six-game homestand that starts on Friday, when the Mets and Milwaukee Brewers come to town.
"I think we've got a good approach," Leyland said delicately. "We're making people pitch and we're doing what good-hitting teams do. We're hitting mistakes. The better the pitchers are -- and understand, I'm not talking about Texas here -- the fewer mistakes you'll see."
But mistakes were abundant from the Rangers, both in their 10-0 shutout loss on Wednesday and again on Thursday.
Granderson opened the game with a triple and scored on a fielder's choice grounder by Gary Sheffield, but the Rangers tied it 1-1 in the bottom of the first when Michael Young doubled home Kenny Lofton.
Brandon Inge doubled home two runs in the second and Sheffield homered for the third time in two games to lead off the third. His 16th homer and 40th RBI of the season moved Sheffield past boyhood idol Willie Stargell into 39th place on the all-time list for career RBIs with 1,541.
Sheffield's homer ignited a six-run third for the Tigers, an onslaught that also included a two-run triple by Granderson. The Tigers' center fielder leads the Majors with 12 triples through 59 games, and six came in the last nine games of this road trip. The last time a player had so many triples so early in a season was 1992, when Atlanta's Deion Sanders tripled 10 times in his team's first 55 games.
"It's all placement," Granderson said, smiling. "There's no skill to it. You just gotta hit it in the right place and go. [Third-base coach Gene Lamont] has been sending me, and I like that he's being aggressive with me. I like that a lot."
The 9-1 lead in the top of the third made things easy for Detroit left-hander Mike Maroth. Though he labored through 93 pitches, Maroth (4-2) held Texas to three runs on eight hits over five innings to win for the first time in four starts. He left with an 11-3 lead, after Mike Rabelo and Granderson each singled home a run in the fourth.
Newly arrived relief pitchers Aquilino Lopez and Yorman Bazardo looked good over the final four innings. They pitched two each and allowed only two hits and one run, a solo home run by Mark Teixeira off Bazardo with two out in the ninth.
By that time, however, the final taste in the Tigers' mouths for this trip was decidedly sweeter than a 5-5 record might indicate. They showed resilience in series in which they lost the first game.
"I think we've got a good team, that's basically it," Leyland said. "And when you've got a good team, you've got a chance to win games."