Inge ignites Tigers to win over Royals
Infielder belts seventh homer; Galarraga improves to 3-0
KANSAS CITY -- Brandon Inge insists he's not swinging for home runs. Nevertheless, the April long balls keep coming off his bat in abundance.
Inge blasted a two-run homer off Sidney Ponson in the second inning on Sunday to provide a springboard for the Tigers' 3-2 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. When Ponson made one of his few mistakes on the day -- a breaking ball that caught too much of the plate -- Inge made the veteran right-hander pay with a blast over the left-field wall.
That's No. 7 already for Inge, who also has 17 runs batted in and a rock-solid approach at the plate that he vows will remain with him whether he's striking out or striking fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers.
"I don't even think about the outcome," Inge said. "As the pitch is coming, I just let everything that I worked on in the offseason take over. That mind-set is probably the best thing I've got going right now."
Ponson wanted that pitch to Inge back as soon as it left his hand.
"I don't make excuses," Ponson said. "That one bad pitch put us in a hole."
The last time Inge went on a big power binge, he had a 27-homer season and the Tigers wound up in the 2006 World Series. But sometimes it takes small ball, as well as the long ball. That was certainly the case on Sunday, as Detroit gave a textbook display in manufacturing what proved to be the winning run.
With the Tigers up, 2-1, in the fifth, Josh Anderson led off with one of his three hits. Anderson stole second and advanced to third when Adam Everett gave himself up by hitting a grounder to second. Backup catcher Dane Sardinha bunted foul on a suicide squeeze, but made up for it by battling with two strikes and getting a sacrifice fly to center.
Sardinha came up on Sunday to replace Matt Treanor, who was placed on the disabled list. He showed his defensive skills when he threw out Coco Crisp, who tried to steal second in the fifth.
"The first day couldn't have gone much better," Sardinha said.
Inge thoroughly enjoyed watching Anderson, Everett and Sardinha manufacture the run, which made it 3-1 in the fifth.
"That's true baseball," Inge said. "I like that hard-nosed baseball where you have to earn it. Everett did a great job making sure he kept his hands inside and he pushed the ball to the right side of the infield. That's key right there. And Dane, in his first game up from Triple-A, had an excellent at-bat."
Closer Fernando Rodney issued a solo homer to Mike Aviles in the ninth, but still came away with his fourth save after Armando Galarraga worked the opening six innings and Bobby Seay and Ryan Perry each delivered a scoreless inning.
The Tigers, 10-8 and alone in first place, will take their 5-4 road trip and not look back.
Although Galarraga surrendered five walks and wasn't as sharp as he wanted to be, he still managed to keep Kansas City at arm's length.
With the big blast from Inge early in the game, the Detroit right-hander at least had the luxury of working with a cushion.
Inge lifted his batting average to .323 to go along with the power display.
"He's in a good groove," manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't want to make too big a deal about [home runs]. He's just hitting the ball hard. If he gets it up in the air, it goes over the fence. If he doesn't, he hits a line drive. I just want him to stay on the ball like he's doing. If he does that, he'll hit some home runs, because he's real strong."
Galarraga is now 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA. He had to battle through the third when the Royals got a run-scoring single from Jose Guillen, and then had the bases loaded with Alberto Callaspo at the plate in a key spot.
Galarraga got Callaspo on a roller to second and the Royals couldn't do much thereafter until Aviles went deep against Rodney in the ninth.
"I know I need to work on my mechanics," Galarraga said. "But we got a big win that keeps us in first place."
After being dominated by Zack Greinke on Friday in the series opener, the Tigers' pitching staff limited the Royals to a combined three runs in taking the final two games of the series. Detroit can only hope that trend holds up over the course of the season series with Kansas City.
"When you've got a pitching staff that has [Gil] Meche and Greinke, they are going to be tough to beat," Inge said. "We have to take what we can get, so this was an important game."
Robert Falkoff is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.