Tigers roll in Garcia's return
Detroit lineup backs veteran in first start of the season
ARLINGTON -- It feels good to be Freddy Garcia.
It might feel even better to be a baseball fan in Venezuela.
Pitching in his first game since June 2007, the Venezuelan right-hander and his repaired right shoulder stymied the Rangers offense while his teammates battered Texas pitching in a 17-4 victory in the series finale at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
Magglio Ordonez, Garcia's countryman, finished 3-for-5 with two runs scored, raising his batting average to .326 and putting him in a virtual tie with Boston second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.3264) in the race for the American League batting crown. Ordonez (.3263) is the defending American League batting title champion.
"I'm just trying to do my best to help out the team and finish the season strong," Ordonez said. "I know I'm in the race for the batting title, but I'm just going to keep doing what I have been doing -- working hard and concentrating every at-bat. We will see what happens at the end of the season."
What happened Wednesday was the Tigers (71-80) snapped a six-game losing streak and racked up 17 hits in a victory. The club still dropped the three-game series to the Rangers, but it heads to Cleveland for a series that starts Friday with some momentum.
"It's important to win any time -- whether you are getting here, or leaving or in between games or whatever," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It's great to win a ballgame, and we are tying to win as many as we can."
Garcia (1-0) allowed one unearned run and two hits in five innings. He walked one batter and struck out three, primarily with a fastball that hovered between 88-90 mph.
"For me, it's been one year and really hard for me to be away from baseball," Garcia said. "I did my therapy to try to get back. Tonight we hit and I started on the right foot. I pitched my game and threw my pitches like I always do."
After the game, Leyland complimented Garcia's presence on the mound, his confidence and velocity. He didn't know what to expect from Garcia, but he didn't expect what Garcia delivered.
"The thing I got a kick out of him is that it was like riding a bike for that guy," Leyland said. "I was shocked, to be honest with you. I didn't expect him to do as well as he did, but I'm so happy for him. I know he's got so much moxie. He's got courage. He's been a winner. I'm so tickled for him."
Garcia did not do it alone.
Leading, 2-1, after four innings, Detroit rallied for nine runs in the top of the fifth inning to turn a close game into a blowout.
The Tigers added five more runs in the sixth, including three on a home run by Miguel Cabrera, and one final run in the ninth.
The runs were more than enough for Garcia.
"It's almost amazing that a year after surgery -- and that kind of surgery -- [Garcia] is pitching in the big leagues," Leyland said. "It's not so much that he won the game, but that he is even pitching in the big leagues. And he acts like nothing ever happened. ... The big step will be [Thursday] and the next day [to see] how [Garcia] feels. There are so many things that go into it. But as far as one night, it was impressive."
The Tigers offense rolled early.
In the top of the second inning, Cabrera led off with a single and Gary Sheffield followed with walk. Two outs later, Brandon Inge smashed a double over the head of Marlon Byrd in center field to score both runners.
The Rangers added a run in the bottom of the third to cut the lead in half. Joaquin Arias motored home from third base on a ground ball by Brandon Boggs. Arias led off the frame with a single, and he raced to third base on a fielding error by Tigers left fielder Marcus Thames.
The Rangers' other three runs came off Nate Robertson, who had relieved Garcia to start the sixth. Robertson is scheduled to start against Kansas City on Wednesday. Garcia could start Tuesday.
Expect more of the same when the Venezuelan takes the ball again.
"I threw a lot of strikes and made a good pitch when I needed it," Garcia said. "I tried to be aggressive, and I was feeling good. I got ahead in the count and tried to get people out."
Jesse Sanchez is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.