Tigers bounce back to beat Tribe
Ordonez collects four hits, 13th homer to lead Detroit
DETROIT -- The Pistons lost the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night. The Tigers lost manager Jim Leyland from their game in the fourth inning. The Indians lost the ball in the sixth. Detroit's bullpen held.
One night after the Indians rallied time and again, capped by erasing a four-run Detroit lead in the ninth, the Tigers had another one Saturday thanks to a sixth-inning rally off two Indians errors. With closer Todd Jones out, Fernando Rodney still on the disabled list and the middle of Cleveland's mighty order looming, Bobby Seay and Zach Miner followed up scoreless outings by Tim Byrdak and Jason Grilli by halting the Indians' final chance for a 9-5 Tigers win.
They still had to make their way through the celebration in downtown Cleveland over the Cavaliers to get to their hotel. But thanks in no small part to the bullpen, and to four-hit games from Magglio Ordonez and Ivan Rodriguez, the masses wouldn't have another Indians win over the Tigers to add to the celebration. And Detroit fans wouldn't have to double their sorrow.
Asked about the significance of beating his old club, Chad Durbin said, "I think the significance here is beating the Indians, period. We have a good team, and it's going to be a battle all year. We've got 12 more with them, and it'll be a heavyweight bout."
It looked like an early-round knockout, the way the evening was shaping up.
Durbin (5-1) didn't work deep into the game, expending 115 pitches over 5 1/3 innings. Those short starts have usually been the prelude to late collapses, but considering he was at the 75-pitch mark by the end of the third, his exit could've come sooner, and it could've cost him the game.
After Casey Blake's two-run homer in the third, a pair of walks and a Victor Martinez single loaded the bases with one out, giving Cleveland a chance to take command of the game. David Dellucci's sacrifice fly tied it at 4, but after Durbin again walked the bases loaded, he escaped with a soft liner from Josh Barfield into short center that second baseman Placido Polanco ran down for the out.
"It's still one pitch at a time, trying to execute a pitch in a good location and get them to hit it at one of our guys," Durbin said.
By keeping Cleveland's third-inning rally at three runs rather than something worse, Durbin stretched his unbeaten streak to 10 starts since losing his first outing of the season. He retired seven of nine batters until Grady Sizemore's solo homer chased him in the sixth.
By then, the Tigers had re-opened a cushion. Ordonez followed up his two-run homer in the third inning with his league-leading 28th double of the season, a line drive off the left-field wall leading off the sixth, before Rodriguez doubled him in.
"Just got good swings today," said Rodriguez, whose last four-hit game came in the second of the season.
Ordonez was a triple shy of the cycle through his first three at-bats. He singled again leading off the eighth.
Two booted ground balls and three singles fueled the decisive rally. The first was a grounder that went through Barfield's legs, putting Polanco on first to lead off the inning. After a Gary Sheffield single and an Ordonez strikeout, reliever Rafael Perez (0-1) induced a potential double-play grounder from Marcus Thames that shortstop Jhonny Peralta couldn't handle for another error.
That loaded the bases for Rodriguez, whose ground ball made it through the left side cleanly for a two-run single. Two batters later, Omar Infante hit a two-out bouncer that hopped past third baseman Casey Blake for another RBI and a four-run lead.
This time, it stuck, though Sizemore's homer briefly shrunk it to three. Lloyd McClendon, acting as manager once Leyland was ejected in an argument with home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo, went to Tim Byrdak for the middle of Cleveland's order. Blake singled, but Byrdak worked the count full against Travis Hafner before sending him down swinging at a breaking ball. Martinez, who homered three times through the first two games of the series, grounded out to short.
After Peralta's one-out single in the eighth brought in pinch-hitter Jason Michaels, McClendon went back to the bullpen for Grilli, who had given up 11 earned runs over his previous six outings to close out a May he'd rather forget. He started June by ending the seventh with a double-play grounder before retiring the side in the eighth.
"These guys are capable," Leyland said of his relievers. "They just have to get some confidence and they've got to start doing the job, quite frankly."
Leyland indicated before the game that who would cover Jones' job for a night was going to be a matter of matchups. Lefty Seay gave up a Hafner single leading off the ninth, but retired Martinez before Miner entered.
Even while effective, it wasn't easy. A strike away from ending it, Miner gave up a Peralta single to put the potential tying run on deck and Michaels at the plate. Michaels hit a drive to deep center that Curtis Granderson camped under just in front of the fence.
Leyland said the game his players didn't panic over Friday's loss. But the way their games against the Indians have been going, they'll always have use for relief.
"I guess when these two teams get together," Leyland said, "that's what they talk about when they talk about American League baseball. Because they just whack it. Both teams whacked it pretty good."
This time, the Tigers whacked the ball last.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.