With pressure on in 2017, Tigers off to another solid start

The Detroit Tigers have had their ups and downs in three-plus seasons under Brad Ausmus, but the first couple weeks of April have never been much of a problem.

The Tigers improved to 8-4 with a win at Cleveland on Sunday and took two of three in that series with the Indians. It's Detroit's fourth straight strong start to the season since Ausmus took over as manager.

In 2014, his first season at the helm, the Tigers raced out to a 27-12 mark en route to an AL Central title. The following year, they started 11-2, although that season eventually fell apart and Detroit finished last.

In 2016, the Tigers started 7-3 and were in contention for a postseason spot until the very end. They ultimately fell short of a wild card.

Ausmus recently downplayed the trend.

''I don't really care how we start, to be honest with you,'' he said. ''I just care what our record is when we're finished.''

The Tigers still have their issues. The bullpen has already been a problem, and their run differential is at minus-9. But Detroit can't worry too much about how its victories are coming. Even at this early stage, these wins are important, considering how uncertain the future is for this roster.

Detroit has made it clear it will need to cut payroll soon. J.D. Martinez and Francisco Rodriguez can become free agents after this season, and the Tigers have a team option on Ian Kinsler. If this team had started poorly, there might already be speculation about key players being traded at the deadline.

Instead, Detroit is in first place, and as long as that's the case, the Tigers can remain in win-now mode. The most encouraging sign for Detroit has been the performance of young left-handers Daniel Norris and Matthew Boyd, who have combined to go 3-1 with a 3.04 ERA in five starts.

Here are a few other developments from around baseball:

DIGGING A HOLE

While Detroit's postseason hopes are rising a bit, the Toronto Blue Jays have baseball's worst record at 2-10. It's still far too early for any panic in Toronto, but there were some similarities between the Blue Jays and Tigers coming into the season. The core of Toronto's lineup includes 34-year-old Russell Martin, 32-year-old Troy Tulowitzki and 36-year-old Jose Bautista, so time may be running out for this group, especially if things don't go well this year.

With slugger Josh Donaldson and right-hander Aaron Sanchez on the disabled list, the Blue Jays could be in trouble if this slide lasts much longer.

NAME GAME

Abbott & Costello could have had some fun with the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.

The White Sox fielded a lineup of Avisail Garcia in right field, Leury Garcia in center field and Willy Garcia in left field for their game against Minnesota. It was the first time in major league history that a team started three outfielders with the same last name.

The Garcias, who are not related, went 4 for 10 with two doubles and a walk.

HIGHLIGHT

Arizona center fielder A.J. Pollock raced back to the warning track to take an extra-base hit away from Corey Seager on Sunday, then smacked into the wall at Dodger Stadium and fell onto his back, holding onto the ball the whole time. The padded wall was actually shaking a bit after the impact.

LINE OF THE WEEK

Yoenis Cespedes, Mets, hit three home runs in the first five innings of New York's 14-4 win over Philadelphia on Tuesday night. Cespedes later added a double for good measure.

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More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball

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Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

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