Tigers hit break on high note
Sheffield, Thames and Guillen in rout of Dice-K, Red Sox
DETROIT -- Apparently the gyroball was out of commission for Daisuke Matsuzaka.The Tigers blasted the much-hyped Japanese import, tagging him for six runs over five innings. The bullpen managed to hold on to the lead in a 6-5 win over the Red Sox on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park. The win completed a three-game series sweep for the Detroit, which has won six of seven games entering the All-Star break. Curious fans -- 41,943 of them -- came out to see Matsuzaka, who was 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA over his last four starts. They walked away more impressed with the Tigers' offense than Dice-K, as Gary Sheffield, Marcus Thames and Carlos Guillen all delivered tape-measure homers. Thames' shot was the most impressive. Manager Jim Leyland said Thames' 440-foot homer to straightaway center field in the third inning that bounced off a green wall just under a camera deck reminded him of majestic shots that another famous slugger used to hit. The player? Mark McGwire. "He hits 'em high," Leyland said of Thames. "And they just keep going." Curtis Granderson made a highlight-reel play of his own when he robbed Wily Mo Pena of a homer on a leaping catch at the wall in the fourth. Granderson tracked backwards and scaled the wall just in front of the trademark flag pole in left-center field, about 400 feet from home plate. "If that's not one of the 'Web gems,' I've never seen one, because that's as good as it gets," Leyland said. Granderson's catch was impressive. But he admitted there was no way he -- or anyone else, for that matter -- could have caught the ball Thames hit. "Unless you can get up there and ... get up on the fence and stand," Granderson said. "But the fact that our field is so big, it's hard to get back there so quick." Guillen added a two-run homer into the right-field seats three batters later for a 5-2 lead. "[You] just have to be aggressive and look for the good pitch to hit," Guillen said of the strategy against Matsuzaka. It was the first time Matsuzaka allowed three homers in a game and matched the shortest outing of his career. "He's good. I think what you saw today is what I talk about a lot, when you get to real good pitchers and catch them on an off-day, that's when you've got you're only chance to get them," Leyland said. "I would assume watching him today, he wasn't very happy about how he located his fastball." The offense was fine against Matsuzaka. The defense committed a staggering season-high five errors, though just one of the five runs was unearned. But the bullpen was again a big story, as four relievers allowed just the one unearned run and Todd Jones recorded his 22nd save of the season. The always even-keeled Jones was predictably subdued, not praising himself for pitching well. He was more excited to show off his new iPhone than to answer questions about his fifth straight scoreless outing, which came one day after he went two pressure-packed innings in a 3-2 extra-inning win on Saturday. "I expect to go out there and throw good every time," Jones said. "Going out there and doing good or doing bad is important, but as long as I'm prepared and making pitches, it works out most of the time." After all the early season talk of the Tigers' struggles, particularly with the bullpen, an Indians loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday means Detroit enters the All-Star break with a one-game lead in the American League Central. "We've been treading water quite a bit, but we treaded water pretty good," Leyland said. "That's what we did. We got to get some things, hopefully, ironed out in the second half, but all in all, you've got to be pretty pleased, I think."
Tim Kirby is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.