Tigers homer way to sweep Rangers
Magglio goes deep twice, team totals five long balls in finale
DETROIT -- A good offense can mask a lot of ills. Now is the time when the Tigers are finally taking advantage of theirs.
They have a revolving door of injuries that left them with one healthy position player on the bench by the end of Thursday's game, and their starting pitchers can't seem to last into the late innings. Yet, between formidable scoring efforts and stingy long relief, their issues aren't in the results.
With Thursday's 8-2 victory, the Tigers completed a three-game sweep of the Rangers in which they overwhelmed Texas by a 37-10 margin and hit 10 home runs, half of them coming on Thursday. They've outscored opponents 42-11 over the course of their season-high four-game win streak that has pulled them out of the cellar in the American League Central and within three games of the White Sox at the top of the division.
Manager Jim Leyland has no shortage of concerns, but an abundance of runs. It's hard to live that way over the course of a season, but for an April stretch, it certainly helps.
"What we've got, we've got," Leyland said. "Some people will have to step up. That's what a team's all about. That can be a real good time for a team."
Since challenging his big offensive contributors to step up last weekend at Toronto, Leyland has seen his lineup deliver, no matter what the lineup looks like. On Thursday, he had leadoff man Curtis Granderson and No. 2 hitter Placido Polanco in the same lineup for the first time this season, but missed No. 3 hitter Gary Sheffield and Carlos Guillen, the man who had been filling in for Sheffield at the third spot until fouling a ball off of his knee on Wednesday night.
After Granderson led off the bottom of the first with his first home run of the year, it was the man in the cleanup spot who powered much of the attack. Magglio Ordonez, Thursday's designated hitter, worked Rangers starter Jason Jennings to a full count before powering a two-out solo shot in the third inning, then made him pay for a 3-1 pitch over the plate his next time up in the fifth.
The latter home run, his fifth on the year, came with two on and two outs to break what had been a 2-2 tie despite 12 combined walks from the two starting pitchers.
"I felt good today," said Ordonez upon his 22nd two-homer game, his sixth with Detroit. "I swung the bat really well today. I took good pitches. [Jennings] hung me a few pitches, and, fortunately, I hit it out."
He had company in that regard. For a team that needed just two home runs and four extra-base hits in their 19-run outburst on Wednesday night, the Tigers looked more like a slugging offense than a manufacturing one on Thursday. Seven of their eight runs scored on homers, including back-to-back shots from Brandon Inge and Ryan Raburn with two outs in the sixth off Kazuo Fukumori.
Still, it was Ordonez who left Rangers manager Ron Washington sounding exasperated.
"We just couldn't do anything with Magglio," Washington said. "They have a great lineup, and if you go through that lineup enough, somebody is going to beat you. Today, it was Magglio."
Jennings (0-4) gave up the odd line of five runs on five hits in five innings. The Tigers had more home runs off of him (three) than singles (two).
He actually outlasted Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman, who reached the 110-pitch mark but was unable to record the final out in the fifth. Trying to hold onto a 2-1 lead, he gave up back-to-back two-out walks to force in the tying run.
Like Kenny Rogers a day earlier, Leyland felt like Bonderman made some good pitches with bad results. Given the stuff and the offensive support, he had some extra patience with his starter until Bonderman's seventh walk of the day.
"I've been a little more patient than I normally am," Leyland said. "We're trying to get some guys going. I felt like we were swinging the bats pretty good. Unless they really blew it open, I felt like we had a chance."
Instead, that chance went to a reliever for the second straight game. Zach Miner made his early-season struggles seem like the distant past when Adam Melhuse went after his sinker for an inning-ending groundout. Miner (1-1) went on to retire 10 of the 11 batters he faced, the one exception being an eighth-inning walk to Jason Botts.
"I was real proud of myself today," Miner said. "I came in with the bases loaded and I was calm. I just made my pitch. If he gets a hit there, my approach was still good, so I can live with that. I threw strikes, and he fortunately hit the ball to the second baseman."
It's easier to live with giving up hits when there's confidence in the offense. If Guillen and Sheffield remain out and Jacque Jones is unable to play, having bruised his left knee toppling into the left-field seats after a foul ball, the Tigers would essentially have a one-man bench. But they'd still have hitters in the lineup.
"We're doing OK. We're doing better," Jones said. "We started out a little slow, but nobody believed we could maintain that forever with the guys we've got in here."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.