DETROIT -- The offseason acquisition of Ian Kinsler, as well as the corresponding departure of Prince Fielder left a void in the middle of the Detroit lineup.
Kinsler has staked his claim to the leadoff slot. Meanwhile, the spot previously occupied by Fielder has been filled by Austin Jackson.
Jackson's speed gives pitchers a little something extra to think about in the heart of the order. He's stolen five bases this season entering play Sunday, three of them in the past week. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus gives his baserunners the green light to swipe a bag when they think they can make it, and Jackson appears ready to take advantage of that freedom.
Jackson also entered Sunday's game on an eight-game hitting streak, batting .303 on the season.
"I think he's comfortable there," Ausmus said of Jackson's new role. "He's definitely given quality at-bats. Even a lot of his outs are well-hit. He seems comfortable in that segment of the lineup."
Rotation key to Tigers' recent success
DETROIT -- Tigers manager Brad Ausmus had to think long and hard about when the last time one of his starting pitchers didn't do, at the very least, an adequate job.
And his answer showed just how strong the rotation has been over this recent stretch.
"The last bad start was when Anibal Sanchez had to come out of the game in the third [because of an injury]," Ausmus said before Sunday's game.
Detroit starters lead the American League with a 2.81 ERA entering play Sunday. Opponents were hitting just .227 against the rotation.
The way things are going for the starters, even when they're off, they're still winning. Saturday, Max Scherzer's slider was uncharacteristically weak, but he still managed to last six innings and pick up his fifth win of the season. It was the Tigers' 21st quality start in the first 32 games of the season.
"When you have a pitcher like Max, he can battle through it," Ausmus said. "Doesn't mean he's going to be successful every time he's not on, but he was able to battle through it for six."
The bats came to life Saturday in the 9-3 win over the Twins. But there have also been games like Monday and Wednesday, when the Tigers won despite scoring just five combined runs.
"I've been saying it for two weeks," Ausmus said. "The starting pitching is the key to the success we've had. Everyone wanted to talk about the offense in Kansas City, and we were certainly swinging the bats and scoring runs, but it was still the starting pitching without question."
Detroit has won eight of its last 10.
Tigers celebrate Mother's Day with pink bats, gear
DETROIT -- Given the choice between a victory and a long ball, Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler would've certainly preferred a win on Mother's Day against the Twins. But he knows he made at least one fan happy, despite the outcome, with his fifth-inning solo home run in the 4-3 loss -- his mom.
"I guess that's one thing you can take out of it," said Kinsler, who couldn't hide his disappointment with the homestand-ending defeat. "But it's all about wins. If you lose, nothing you do matters."
Kinsler hit the blast, which gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead, using a pink bat for breast cancer awareness and research. He was joined by many other players in his own clubhouse and across the country Sunday. Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and Don Kelly all carried the pink lumber.
While many of the bats used Sunday will be auctioned off to raise money for the fight against breast cancer, some players, like Detroit catcher Alex Avila, saw them as a unique gift. Avila said before Sunday's game that he'd be giving his pink bats to the women in his life -- his mother, wife and mother-in-law.
Kinsler said he'd like to see his bat auctioned off.
The homer was Kinsler's third as a Tiger. He also doubled to the right-field wall in the first inning, marking his 15th multihit game of the season, which ranks third in the American League.
Not every player used the bats, though most wore pink in some capacity. Slugger Miguel Cabrera, for example, donned hot-pink wristbands at the plate.
Even the electronic Tigers sign above the Comerica Park scoreboard flashed pink to commemorate the holiday.
Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said he enjoys the game's traditions on both Mother's Day and Father's Day, which falls on June 15 this year.
"It's a nice way to honor parents and raise some money," he said.
Sunday, with his pink-bat blast, Kinsler likely found a way to do both.
Honorary Bat Girl Chapaton throws out first pitch
DETROIT -- As the Tigers' winner of MLB's Honorary Bat Girl contest, Ann Chapaton was honored prior to Sunday's game and threw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Chapaton, who is from Armada, Mich., was diagnosed with breast cancer while her children were young. She has since beat the disease and taken an active role in raising money for breast cancer research. Her team for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure finished in the Top 10 for fundraising.
Each team's honorary bat girl was selected via fan voting as well as a guest judging panel that included Evan Longoria of the Rays and the Braves' Freddie Freeman.
More than four million fan votes have been cast since the program's 2009 inception.
Ausmus wants versatile Kelly to stay where he is
DETROIT -- If you ask Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, Don Kelly's skill set may fit in better on a National League team.
Ausmus quickly clarified: "I don't want Donnie Kelly going anywhere. I want to keep him here."
It's just that, between his ability to play nearly everywhere on the field, his lefty bat and the senior circuit's proclivity toward double switches, players like Kelly are more often found in the NL.
Kelly did have a National League stint, but it was a short one. In 2007, he played 25 games for the Pirates and batted just .148.
He was slotted into the Tigers' Sunday lineup at third base, one of the five positions he has played this season. Factor in Kelly's surprising .355 batting average entering play Sunday, albeit in just 31 at-bats, and you have something of a manager's dream.
"Other than the fact that he can play anywhere is, regardless of what time of day or what point in the game you need Don Kelly, he's always ready," Ausmus said. "It could be before batting practice or in the eighth inning, if you look for Don Kelly, he's ready. His versatility plays into that very well."
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.