08/02/06 12:50 AM ET
Guillen's cycle leads Tigers to victory
Clevlen hits the first two home runs of his Major League career
By Dawn Klemish / MLB.com
Sean Casey, whom the Tigers had acquired on Monday from Pittsburgh and Brent Clevlen, who'd been promoted from Double-A Erie on Saturday, collected their first home runs in Detroit uniforms during Tuesday's fifth inning.
Of course, the Tigers were leading Tampa Bay by three at the time so there was no dramatic flair to accompany either hit, but that didn't mean any significance was lost on Casey.
"Oh man," he said. "It's just a great atmosphere on this team. [It's] good to get out there and contribute a little bit. It's a lot of fun."
"It's pretty unbelievable," said Clevlen, whose 416-foot shot to straightaway center was also the first of his Major League career. "Probably once I leave here, it'll start sinking in a little bit."
And what could be better than a big-league homer during a 10-4 win? For Clevlen, the answer was to repeat the feat in the ninth, as the center fielder parked a ball in nearly the same spot -- just three feet closer, in fact -- off reliever Ruddy Lugo for the Tigers' final run.
Clevlen hit just 10 homers in 101 games (366 at-bats) with the Seawolves before his July 29 promotion, and hit .224, leaving Detroit manager Jim Leyland to quip that he'd hate to meet up with the pitchers from the Double-A Eastern League.
Clevlen said the main difference is that big-league lighting is better on the field, so he sees the ball better. He added jokingly that, with five hits in eight at-bats now, he thinks the ball might be wider in the Majors. Regardless, Casey said, he was impressed with the 22-year-old's hitting.
"He's doing it the hard way, goin' to grown-folk territory in dead center," Casey laughed.
For Leyland, who recalled being extremely impressed with Clevlen during Spring Training, his center fielder was doing exactly what he expected.
"He did OK," Leyland said. "He's done a good job for us. I think he's pretty much relaxed ... and it looks like the ball comes off his bat pretty good."
Justin Verlander added to the list of positives, tossing 91 pitches and scattering eight hits over just five innings, but keeping the big hits out of Tampa Bay's reach. He allowed three runs, fanned four and walked two. Verlander gave up just one extra-base hit during that time, a two-out double to Greg Norton in the fifth inning, to earn his 14th win of the season.
Verlander is 25 percent of a stellar rookie pitching staff that has more combined wins (25) than any rookies on a team in the Major Leagues. The last time Tigers rookies reached that number was more than 50 years ago, when the 1955 Detroit newbies had 27 combined wins.
Tuesday's win also put Verlander atop the Major Leagues for number of victories.
"It's definitely exciting," Verlander said. "I guess I'll kind of take a moment and think about it, but not much more than a moment, because I've got to get ready for the next one."
In a far cry from the malaise which had swept Detroit the night before, the Tigers used a five-run second inning to jump ahead for good, racking up 18 hits in the win over the Rays at Tropicana Field.
Casey, who played first base and batted seventh, said he enjoyed himself much more than he had on Monday, when he caught a plane from Pittsburgh to sit in the dugout during a game where the Tigers were outscored 7-1 through the first eight innings.
"This is neat, man," Casey said. "I came from just a totally different situation. This clubhouse is special, you can just feel it being in here.
"Winning is just contagious. It's a special team, and just a special thing that they're doing right now."
On Tuesday night, all pistons were firing unlike Monday, when the first-place Tigers committed four errors and struggled both at the plate and on the mound against the last-place Rays. To add to the glow of the victory, shortstop Carlos Guillen doubled in the eighth during his final at-bat to become the first Tiger to hit for the cycle since Damion Easley did it on June 8, 2001, at home against Milwaukee.
On Tuesday night, there was much to celebrate in Tiger Town.
"There were a lot of good days today for a lot of guys," Verlander said.
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.