DETROIT -- The Rangers have played some clunkers of late. Then they turn around and play a game like they did on Thursday afternoon that is a reminder this is still a first-place team.Their offense delivered enough big hits to support dominating starter Alexi Ogando, their defense was solid for once and the bullpen came through like everybody envisioned, allowing the Rangers to finish their road trip with a 5-2 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park. "We played really well today and pitched really well," designated hitter Michael Young said. "Pitching was the story. Ogando threw the ball well and our bullpen did a great job." The Rangers finished 2-4 on the road trip, but they will still have sole possession of first place in the American League West when they open a three-game series with the Indians on Friday night at the Ballpark in Arlington. "It's always more fun and relaxing to win on travel day," said second baseman Ian Kinsler, whose brilliant diving stop on Brennan Boesch's sixth-inning grounder was the highlight of the Rangers' flawless defensive day. "The road trip wasn't the best road trip we've had, and a lot of things didn't go our way, but we were able to scratch out a couple of wins, and this one was important." Ogando continued his season-long domination of the Tigers by holding them to two runs in 6 1/3 innings. He allowed eight singles, did not walk a batter and struck out seven, raising his record to 11-5 with a 2.88 ERA. He is now 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA in three starts against the Tigers after beating Brad Penny on Thursday. "We got beat by a good pitcher," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He was just better than we were today. There's not much you can say. We didn't play bad, Penny didn't pitch bad, Ogando was just better today than we were." Ogando is the only pitcher to have beaten the Tigers three times this season. "I feel like every time I've gone out there against them I've had good command of my fastball," Ogando said. "I felt I had good command out there today. I really focused on throwing strikes. You always try to avoid walks, but my concentration on throwing strikes was good today." He took a four-hit shutout and 5-0 lead into the seventh, but gave up four singles to the first five hitters. That brought home two runs and left the Tigers with runners at first and second. But Darren Oliver got pinch-hitter Jhonny Peralta on a pop to short, and Koji Uehara retired pinch-hitter Magglio Ordonez. Scoreless innings by Mike Adams in the eighth and Neftali Feliz in the ninth finished off the afternoon. For Adams, it was a much better day than his first game with the Rangers on Tuesday, when he gave up a game-winning home run to Brendon Boesch. "A whole lot better," Adams said. "I feel a lot more comfortable in this clubhouse than I did the other day. I was pressing, trying to come in here and impress people. Today I was a lot more relaxed and in control." The Rangers' offense didn't exactly have a breakout day, but Texas was able to take an early lead, which made a big difference, and then strung together some good situational at-bats in a three-run fourth inning. Avoiding an embarrassing triple play in the second inning was also huge. Nelson Cruz led off with a single and was safe at second on Mike Napoli's hit-and-run grounder when second baseman Carlos Guillen dropped the throw from shortstop Ramon Santiago. That left runners at first and second for Mitch Moreland. He hit a grounder at Tigers first baseman Don Kelly, who stepped on the bag and then threw to Santiago to catch Napoli in a rundown. As Cruz went to third, Santiago ran Napoli back to first and then flipped the ball to Kelly for the out. "I knew I couldn't get tagged out by the shortstop," Napoli said. "I knew I had to get in a rundown." At the same time, Cruz broke for the plate. Kelly threw home after tagging Napoli and the Tigers had a chance for a triple play. But catcher Victor Martinez couldn't handle the one-hop throw and Cruz slid in safely to give the Rangers a 1-0 lead. "I thought we had it," Leyland said. "[The throw] bounced and it short-hopped him. I thought we had one. It would have been a unique one, but it would have been a neat one." In the Rangers' three-run fourth, Michael Young, Cruz and Napoli led off the inning with singles to drive home one run, and Moreland dropped a high pop into shallow left for another single that loaded the bases. Andres Blanco hit a grounder to Kelly, who got the force at home. But a sacrifice fly from Endy Chavez drove home one run and a single by Kinsler made it 4-0. "[Penny] had great stuff today," Young said. "He threw the ball hard and kept it down, but fortunately we were able to score a few runs off him." Young had two hits, including a run-scoring triple in the seventh. He is five short of 2,000 hits for his career and should reach that milestone on the upcoming homestand.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.