Tigers sweep Cubs, win seventh straight
Galarraga snaps winless skid for first victory since April
DETROIT -- Magglio Ordonez had gone almost as long without a home run as Armando Galarraga had gone without a win.
Given their recent histories, both streaks were pretty tough to fathom. Both are now over after Detroit's 6-5 victory over the Cubs Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park. The Tigers' winning streak, on the other hand, rolls on.
Detroit has won seven straight games, including a 6-0 homestand over two of the National League Central contenders. Its 23-11 record at home, including Thursday's win before the second-largest crowd of the season at 42,332, now ranks third-best in baseball behind just the Red Sox and Dodgers. Its once moribund offense is now showing signs of breaking out with efforts from big names such as Miguel Cabrera, less prominent names such as Ryan Raburn, and previously dormant bats such as Ordonez.
And after Galarraga snatched a victory out of what had the makings of another disastrous loss, the Tigers' top-heavy pitching rotation now looks ready for a more balanced run.
"I have a plan again," said Galarraga, whose previous outings often seemed to run off script quickly.
Galarraga (4-7) was 3-0 in April, but was battling his control through the opening month. Once May rolled around, it was a losing fight and a losing stretch, leading to an 0-7 record over his next 10 outings. Opponents, meanwhile, had batted .368 over Galarraga's previous seven outings with a 1.079 OPS, including nine home runs over 32 2/3 innings in that span.
As University of Michigan product Jake Fox's drive went deep to left-center for his first Major League home run, a three-run shot in the opening inning on Thursday, confidence in Galarraga would've been hard to come by, including maybe from Galarraga himself. But as he made his way back into the dugout following a strikeout of Mike Fontenot, he got a round of support from his teammates.
"I give up a home run, and the other guys are saying, 'Let's go, let's go, keep it right there,'" Galarraga said.
It was a reminder to him to not give up. He's a perfectionist when it comes to his pitching, so early damage can quickly get him down, such as his two-inning outing in Pittsburgh two starts earlier. He had to avoid the inclination to pitch away from contact, even if some of that contact was hard.
"I'm trying to compete," Galarraga said. "Baseball's all about trying to compete, no matter what. When you struggle, you go compete. It's important."
Galarraga came out for the second inning and fell behind on a 3-0 count to Kosuke Fukudome, but retired him on a comebacker for the first out on his way to retiring the Cubs in order. An Alfonso Soriano bloop single leading off the third inning was quickly nullified when Soriano strayed too far on Derrek Lee's drive deep to left that Raburn corralled at the fence.
Galarraga nearly escaped the fourth without a run until Fukudome tripled to the gap in right-center field, but he regrouped to strike out Koyie Hill and prevent the inning from falling apart on him.
Galarraga retired seven of his final eight batters, starting with that strikeout. His slider got a little sharper, he said, and his sinker grew more effective. He threw the same pitches at different speeds, trying to disrupt hitters' timing, and got a confidence boost.
"It feels really good, because the last couple innings, I felt like I'm pitching," he said. "I have a plan again. They're swinging at pitches I want to be a ball. I've been playing with my fastball, playing with my slider, not just throwing hard, hard, hard, hard."
Galarraga finished allowing four runs on six hits over six innings, walking one and striking out five. Those last couple innings, not coincidentally, he had a lead to protect.
Cabrera nearly powered a run back on the board for Galarraga in the opening inning, but his drive to deep right field was ruled a double off the fence. Replays suggested that it had actually hit off the railing above the fence, and should've been a homer.
Manager Jim Leyland apologized to Cabrera later for not arguing the call.
"I didn't see it hit the railing," Leyland said. "I thought it hit the crease [between the railing and the fence]. But I'm 64 years old. My eyes aren't that good. One guy told me he looked at five replays before [he thought] it was definitely a home run."
The rest of Detroit's offense rendered it moot. Ramon Santiago's fifth home run of the year, a two-run shot, opened Detroit's scoring in the third inning before back-to-back doubles from Marcus Thames and Raburn propelled the go-ahead rally an inning later.
Cubs starter Ted Lilly retired Brandon Inge and put Ordonez in an 0-2 hole before trying to put him away with a curveball. Ordonez reached for it and pulled it deep to left. His third homer of the season was his first since April 27, ending the longest homerless stretch of his career.
Another Raburn RBI, this one on a two-out single in the fifth, provided what ended up being a critical insurance run once Micah Hoffpauir homered off Fernando Rodney in the ninth. His strikeout of Geovany Soto wrapped up not only his 16th save in as many tries, but Galarraga's first win since April 26.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.