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DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Tigers can't explain exactly what happened when they went to Boston in late July.
They don't want to think too much about it and ruin the magic.
Starting with a three-game sweep of the Red Sox at Fenway Park, the Tigers have won nine of their last 10 games. On Friday night, they beat the New York Mets 4-3 to move within two games of first-place Cleveland in the American League Central.
"I hope people are excited about this team, because we're playing really good baseball, and having a lot of fun," said Ian Kinsler, who manufactured a key first-inning run. "We want everyone to join us — there's a lot of room on the bandwagon."
Tigers ace Justin Verlander was the star once again, holding the Mets to four hits in six innings. Since July 1, he is 5-0 in seven starts with a 1.85 ERA.
"Obviously, being in the race adds some excitement," Verlander said. "Obviously, everyone knows where we are at, and we've been around long enough that we're doing some scoreboard watching, but it all comes down to how we finish."
Verlander (12-6) allowed only two runs and struck out nine, but the Mets ran his pitch count up to 103 to force him out of the game. Three relievers finished, with Francisco Rodriguez pitching the ninth for his 31st save.
James Loney drove in a ninth-inning run with a groundout, and Rodriguez retired Kelly Johnson to end the game. Johnson homered in the fourth for the Mets, who are now two games out of the second National League wild-card spot.
"We had some chances, but that guy on the mound for the Tigers is awfully good," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Verlander's one of those guys that can get himself out of just about any jam, so you have to get him fast."
Noah Syndergaard (9-6) also ran into pitch-count trouble, needing 112 to get through his six innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks, striking out seven.
"I'm trying to be too fine with my pitches instead of just trusting my stuff and letting it go," he said. "I know I have the stuff to go out there and be dominant, but I've got to let myself do it."
The Tigers took advantage of Syndergaard's weakness holding runners in the first. Ian Kinsler led off with a single, stole second and third and scored on Miguel Cabrera's groundout. Opponents are 32 of 36 on steal attempts in Syndergaard's 22 starts this season.
"We had an idea about running today, but you can't do anything until Ian gets himself on first base," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He got on base and got himself to third, so while Miggy gets the RBI, Kins basically created that run."
Verlander was cruising until he walked Jay Bruce on a 3-2 pitch in the fourth. He retired Loney for the second out of the inning, but Johnson hit his second homer in two nights to give the Mets a 2-1 lead.
Martinez got the lead back in the bottom of the inning, lining Syndergaard's changeup deep into the right-field stands for a two-run homer. James McCann added an RBI single in the inning to make it 4-2.
"After we got the lead, I went out to the mound telling myself that, no matter what, I couldn't blow it," Syndergaard said. "Well, that's like telling someone not to think about a pink elephant. I think every major mistake I made tonight was in that inning."
Mets: OF Yoenis Cespedes (quadriceps) is on the disabled list, costing him his first visit back to Detroit since he was traded at last year's deadline. Cespedes was popular with Tigers fans.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann's MRI showed no damage to the lat muscle that bothered him in Thursday's poor start. Zimmermann will throw a bullpen session on Sunday before the Tigers decide if he will make his next start. .... CF Cameron Maybin sat out his second straight game with a bruised thumb.
The Mets have the best interleague record (.518) of any National League team since games began in 1996, but the Tigers are significantly better at .546. Since 2006, the Tigers are second in the majors at .620 (124-76).
The teams play the second game in their weekend series Saturday evening, with Matt Boyd (2-2, 4.71) facing New York's Logan Verrett (3-6, 4.20). Boyd will be making his first interleague start, while Verrett made his first on Monday, getting a no-decision against the Yankees.
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