DETROIT -- With no Miguel Cabrera and no Victor Martinez, the Tigers still got to Zack Greinke. The way Max Scherzer pitched, they didn't need much.
"Baseball's that type of game where even without your best player, you can go out there and win," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after Wednesday's 4-1 win over the Dodgers at Comerica Park. "You have to give some credit to Don Kelly for getting a couple big hits."
The way the Tigers have been playing against contending teams lately, they generally find enough.
A homestand that began with a three-game sweep of the AL-best Oakland A's closed with back-to-back wins over the NL West leaders. In between, Detroit lost three of four to the Rays, who vaulted out of last place in the AL East in the process.
A five-run Dodgers first inning off Justin Verlander on Tuesday night briefly had Tigers fans fearing a hangover from the Tampa Bay losses. Instead, Detroit ran off 17 consecutive runs before Los Angeles scored again, finishing the two-game set on an 18-1 run.
"An old coach told me there are two types of players -- humbled and about to be. We got humbled these two days," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It shows we have a long way to go.
"I'd love to have another crack at those guys. It means we will have accomplished a lot. They showed us where the bar's at. That's a World Series-contending team over there, as good a team as we've faced."
With Clayton Kershaw a spectator, on turn to put his 36-inning scoreless streak on the line against the Padres on Thursday, it was impossible to consider this a potential World Series preview. However, the Tigers faced the next-best starters the Dodgers had and more than held their own.
"Playoffs are a little bit of a different animal, because you can generally kind of line up your pitching," Ausmus said. "But that being said, Greinke's an excellent pitcher.
"We didn't get a ton, and he certainly pitched well, went seven innings. But we know if our starting pitchers, guys like Scherzer, go out there and pitch well, we know we can go out and match up with any pitcher that they put on the other side of the diamond."
On Wednesday, they did it without the best of their lineup.
Ausmus had been talking for days about getting a day off for Cabrera, whose All-Star break won't be much of a break at all while starting at first base for the American League in the Midsummer Classic. Victor Martinez's lingering side injury had delayed Ausmus' plans, but the day game after a night game prompted Ausmus to take a shot and sit Cabrera for the first time this season.
With Scherzer on a roll, Wednesday was Ausmus' best chance to take advantage of limited offense. He got a bonus out of Kelly, 3-for-8 off Greinke for his career entering the game.
It marked just the second start since June 20 for Kelly, whose spot starts in the outfield dried up once J.D. Martinez heated up enough to draw everyday play. As tough as Saturday's start against Tampa Bay's Chris Archer proved to be, this was no let-up.
"He can throw any pitch any time for a strike," Kelly said of Greinke. "You just have to try to get a pitch that you can handle. He was throwing that fastball up to me a little bit."
It was the fastball Kelly connected on in the opening inning after Austin Jackson tripled and scored on Ian Kinsler's single. Kinsler moved into scoring position on a wild pitch, but Greinke gathered himself for back-to-back strikeouts of Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez.
From there, however, Greinke fell behind on a 3-0 count, forcing him to challenge. Kelly took a 3-0 fastball, but connected on 3-1.
It was a huge momentum swung after Yasiel Puig was caught off third base following a one-out triple in the top half. Hanley Ramirez grounded sharply to shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who had caught Puig out of the corner of his eye.
"His first two steps were too big, so I'm just thinking I've got him," Suarez said. "We've got to save the run, so we have a good chance there."
Kelly lined another single to center field in the fourth inning, the second of three consecutive hits off Greinke that drove in a third run. Greinke stranded Kelly on third base, then did the same with Rajai Davis in the fifth inning on his way to nine consecutive outs.
The early lead, however, was enough for Scherzer (11-3), whose only run against him over seven innings was a fifth-inning home run from ninth-hitting rookie shortstop Miguel Rojas. Three leadoff baserunners ended up stranded in scoring position, including Puig, following his double in the sixth after Scherzer sent down the middle of the Dodgers' lineup in order.