April 10, 2014

The Detroit Tigers overcame their bullpen problems again to win their last game, but the issue may linger.

With closer Joe Nathan dismissing the effect of a dead arm and then blowing a three-run lead before Victor Martinez bailed him out, manager Brad Ausmus says he'll turn to Nathan again if his team has a late lead against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on Friday night.

Martinez's leadoff home run in the 10th inning off closer Kenley Jansen gave Detroit (5-2) a 7-6 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday. Martinez's shot made a winner of Nathan, who squandered the lead in the ninth for his second blown save in three chances this season.

Nathan brushed off his arm troubles before the game, telling the team's official website, "It's not even newsworthy. You guys shouldn't even waste your time writing about dead arm, because it's basically like knowing there's second base on the field."

His ensuing rough outing, though, left the Tigers bullpen with a 5.66 ERA and the veteran closer with a 12.27 mark in four games.

Ausmus gave Nathan a vote of confidence afterward, as he'll need the right-hander who totaled 43 saves in 46 opportunities last season for Texas to get on track.

"His stuff looked as crisp as we've seen it," Ausmus told the team's website, "and he felt that was the best stuff he's had, in terms of the break on the slider and the fastball coming out of his hand.

"He's been doing it a long time. He's probably learned to deal with the failure, but the good ones bounce back. Hopefully he's ready to bounce back on Friday."

Detroit, which had dropped two in a row, will send Rick Porcello to the mound as he looks to build on a strong season debut. Porcello was nearly victimized by a bullpen meltdown in that game, as he pitched 6 2-3 innings of one-run ball Saturday and earned the win when the Tigers withstood Baltimore's five-run ninth inning for a 7-6 victory.

Nathan entered with two on and the score 7-3 before eventually managing to get the final two outs.

Martinez's 3-for-3 effort Wednesday made him 6 for 11 with three RBIs in the last three games. Austin Jackson and Ian Kinsler also extended their fast starts with two hits apiece, and they're batting .357 and .313, respectively.

Teammate Nick Castellanos, hitting .353, delivered a three-run shot in the third inning for his first career homer.

The Padres (3-6) avoided a three-game sweep by Cleveland with a 2-1 victory in the second game of a doubleheader Wednesday. Chase Headley's single in the sixth drove in the go-ahead run but was just his fourth hit in 32 at-bats.

San Diego continued to struggle offensively and is among the lowest-scoring teams in baseball with 20 runs. The Padres are batting .209, also near the bottom.

That's certainly been a problem for Andrew Cashner (0-1, 2.25 ERA), who takes the mound having yet to receive one run of support. The right-hander pitched six innings in each of his first two starts and gave up three total runs, including two in a 5-0 loss at Miami on Saturday.

The Padres are 10 for 75 (.133) with runners in scoring position with four regulars - Headley, Jedd Gyorko, Will Venable and Yonder Alonso - each hitting below .200 overall.

"We need to get the rest of the group to start swinging the bat," manager Bud Black said.

Porcello is 10-4 with a 4.34 ERA in 18 career interleague starts.

Outfielder Torii Hunter may return to the Tigers' lineup after missing Wednesday's game with a bruised knee.

These clubs haven't played since 2008. Detroit has won seven of nine meetings.

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