Tigers' hot offense highlights sweep
Sizzling bats score 30 runs in three-game series
DETROIT -- Finally, the Tigers offense cooled down Thursday -- sort of.
The Tigers stranded more than twice as many runners in scoring position Thursday (seven) as they had in their previous two games combined (three). The way they were hitting, it still didn't matter.
Between 13 hits -- eight of them for extra bases -- and four walks, Detroit had enough production to get away with some inefficiency. The Tigers didn't reach double digits this time, but with a 9-2 win over the Mariners, they scored enough to average 10 runs per game over the three-game sweep.
Detroit pulled itself out of the American League cellar by outscoring Seattle with a 30-14 margin and hitting 16-for-33 with runners in scoring position, including 4-for-11 on Thursday.
Whether it carries over to this weekend's series against a Twins team that swept the Tigers at the Metrodome a few weeks ago remains to be seen. Regardless, it was a sign that this offense is at least capable of meeting the lofty standards placed upon it.
"We had a good series," manager Jim Leyland said. "We just have to keep it going."
Where they were going most often Thursday was for extra bases. They started when Magglio Ordonez lined an opposite-field double into the right-field corner, scoring Gary Sheffield from first base in the opening inning, and continued with Matt Joyce's one-out double down the right-field line in the second.
Two batters later came arguably the snapshot of the series. Brandon Inge lofted a 2-1 pitch from Mariners starter Miguel Batista that sent Jeremy Reed back to the fence in left. Reed made a leaping attempt at a catch and corralled the ball in his glove.
It would've been a highlight catch had the glove stayed on the hand. Instead, the glove went over the fence and onto the top of the bullpen dugout. The ball popped out of Reed's glove and rolled along the dugout roof, but at that point, it was superfluous.
"I didn't know the glove went over," Inge said. "I figured the fence just knocked the ball out of it. To be honest, I didn't think it was going to go that far. He jammed me pretty good."
The way Jeremy Bonderman avoided damage, the rest of the game seemed superfluous, but the Tigers added on to punctuate the sweep. Miguel Cabrera doubled and scored in the third, finishing the damage on Batista (3-6). Matt Joyce added his fifth home run in 13 games as a Tiger with a two-run shot in the fifth off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey. Ordonez doubled in another run in a two-run sixth.
The Tigers left nine runners on base overall and still matched that in scoring.
A night earlier, Inge was talking about their hard hits that had been outs earlier -- just a difference of a foot or two. Even so, he saw a difference this series beyond just plain luck.
"I felt like our at-bats this series -- I'm not going to say aggressive, because we've been aggressive," Inge said. "It was more of a focused aggressiveness. It was almost like we were looking for our pitch and when we got it, we put a good swing on it."
By avoiding such swings from Seattle, Bonderman (3-4) tossed six innings of two-run ball to earn his first win at Comerica Park since last July 1, ending an 11-start home winless streak. It wasn't just the run support, it was the pitches.
"I had a good breaking ball today," Bonderman said. "I was able to locate my sinker and use that, trying to mix it up a little bit. I tried to stay aggressive and it worked out."
His velocity was still down a bit, but the key for him Thursday was his movement. Beyond his slider, he sported the aforementioned sinker that had been flat in previous outings and that kept hitters just off of powering the ball. Only one of the eight hits he allowed went for extra bases.
It was a two-seamer that brought Bonderman potentially the biggest outs in the game after two singles and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth, bringing the potential tying run to the plate with cleanup man Raul Ibanez in what was then a 5-1 game.
Ibanez slapped an 0-1 pitch into a ground ball to short, starting the twin killing. Ichiro Suzuki scored, but there were two outs and a runner on third for Richie Sexson, whose fly ball towards the line in right sent Ordonez on the move for a running catch to end the threat.
"Ibanez is one of the better hitters in the league, in my opinion," Leyland said. "He got the double play ball. To me, those were the two key outs of the game."
Freddy Dolsi worked three perfect innings to earn his first Major League save.
Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.