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DET@TEX: Prince's solo blast gives Tigers a 3-1 lead

ARLINGTON -- It's not a hump, that .500 mark for the Tigers. It's more like a road bump, the way they see it.

Still, as many times as they've come close, it's growing in stature. On Tuesday, depending on your view of Miguel Cabrera's eighth-inning drive, they came within feet of potentially breaking it. The fact that his potential game-tying shot fell short merely adds to the stature.

"We'll get there eventually," Alex Avila said after Tuesday night's 7-5 loss to the Rangers scuttled the latest chance.

The Tigers have stood within a game of .500 seven times since they were last at the break-even point on May 15. Tuesday was the seventh time they've lost.

Quintin Berry wasn't even on the team the last time the Tigers were at the .500 mark. He has been with the team for five weeks.

"It's frustrating," Berry said. "You know you're getting closer and closer, then you foul one back. Then you get a couple steps up, and you foul one back."

Avila not only expects the Tigers to get there, he expects it to happen by the time Detroit gets back home. That's the goal, at least.

"I think we all have a pretty good feeling," Avila said. "I think our goal is to get to .500 or above .500 by the end of the road trip. That's what we want to do. We're in a good position to do that."

The Tigers began this three-city, 10-game road trip at a game under .500, so they would have to win four of their next five to finish at 6-4. That would give them a winning record for the first time since May 10, when they were in their stretch of alternating wins and losses.

They were two games in back of the division lead on May 10. Even with Tuesday's loss, the fact that they remain three games in back of the first-place White Sox through all this says volumes about the American League Central.

"It's just a matter of winning games," manager Jim Leyland said. "We're all floundering around a little bit, and we're floundering around a little worse than the two teams in front of us. It looks like there's a good chance that this thing's going to turn out somewhat like it did last year. Somebody's going to get real hot and reel off 12 out of 15 or 16, and they'll probably have a five- or six-game lead."

The Tigers will have Doug Fister going in Wednesday's series finale, then Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander starting off the four-game set at the Rays. If they're going to have a chance, that's their shot.

They're better matchups than Tuesday, which is why Monday's series opener was a game the Tigers felt they had to win. They still had a chance on Tuesday.

They had Drew Smyly pitching in his hometown before nearly two dozen family and friends, but they had Yu Darvish pitching for the home team on a roll. He was effectively wild when he held Detroit to a run over 6 1/3 innings at Comerica Park on April 19. He has been much more composed in his last three outings, racking up 29 strikeouts against five walks over 23 innings.

Ten of those strikeouts came over seven innings on Tuesday.

"Detroit's lineup is one of the top, high-level lineups in the league," Darvish said. "I was really looking forward to facing them. I really enjoyed facing them and the challenge."

The challenge seemed more on the Tigers' side.

"He's got a good fastball, sneaky in his delivery, so you have to be ready for it," Berry said. "Then he has a plethora of different pitches he can use. He's got good stuff. They paid the guy for a reason."

Said Avila: "He definitely made some adjustments after the first couple innings, throwing more strikes. The thing is, when he's throwing that curveball over for a strike, it's really hard, because it's a huge speed difference. You go from 70 to 94 mph. That's a big speed difference. Then he has all of his other pitches, and he made the adjustments to be able to throw strikes with everything he had after his first couple innings."

The one guy who seemed to hit him was Prince Fielder, who followed his two-run double in the opening inning with a fourth-inning solo homer. All it took was a little comebacker for the Rangers to put together their big inning to sink Smyly.

The way the Rangers picked apart Smyly in their four-run fourth inning suggested Smyly might have run out of gas in his first start in 16 days after a stint on the disabled list. The 103-degree first-pitch temperature might have contributed. However, Smyly maintained his velocity on his fastball.

What he lost was his grip on the ball as he whirled to throw in front of the mound on an infield single by Adrian Beltre. Michael Young tripled on Smyly's next pitch and scored on Nelson Cruz's bloop single. Two more singles from Yorvit Torrealba and Brandon Snyder put Texas, which was trailing 3-1 heading into the inning, ahead for good.

Smyly (2-3) hadn't given up more than four runs in a game in his first 12 Major League starts. He allowed six runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday, walking two and striking out three.

"You could see he got frustrated after the bloop hits," Leyland said.

Detroit, though, had Cabrera and Fielder up as the potential tying run in the eighth against Mike Adams. Cabrera's shot sent Josh Hamilton to the fence in straightaway center before it stayed in the park. Two batters later, Delmon Young sent David Murphy to the warning track in left for the inning-ending out.

They were that close to .500. They expect to get back there again.

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