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10/12/06 1:00 AM ET

Tigers Short Hops: Game 2

Balanced lineup backs Verlander to set up commanding lead

OAKLAND -- Fielding the Tigers' Game 2 victory over the A's on a short hop ...

In < 25 words ...
Another strong start from rookie Justin Verlander and seven RBIs from the bottom three in the Tigers order equals a 2-0 series lead for Detroit.

Frozen moment
A collective gasp could be heard from Tigers fans everywhere when Carlos Guillen was hit in the head in the fifth inning by the elbow of A's catcher Jason Kendall as Guillen fielded a throw at first base. With true first baseman Sean Casey out for the rest of the ALCS due to a partially torn muscle in his left calf, Guillen is the Tigers' lone option at first base. But after a short injury delay, Guillen remained in the game with the Tigers brass surely breathing sighs of relief.

Big number
One. The number of home runs that Alexis Gomez had in his Major League career (89 games) before hitting a two-run shot in the sixth inning of Wednesday's win. It's also the number of playoff appearances that Gomez has, as this game marked his postseason debut.

Game ball
It's Gomez because he delivered a clutch two-run single in the fourth that gave the Tigers their first lead in his first playoff game.

Sense of October
The early crowd noise seemed to be getting to the rookie Verlander in the first inning as he threw one wild pitch and issued a balk after recording just one out. But after Verlander struck out Frank Thomas with a runner on second, things turned around for the 23-year-old, as he retired the next six batters he faced with a much quieter McAfee Coliseum crowd.

Lines of the Game
3 AB, 1 R, 2 H, HR, 1B, 4 RBIs
Comment: There is never a better time to step up with a big performance than a playoff game, and that's exactly what Gomez did in Game 2.

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5 1/3 IP, 4 R, 7 H, 1 BB, 6 Ks
Comment: Verlander looked a little shaky early in his outing, but he settled down to give the Tigers the strong start that they needed.

"These guys in this clubhouse have continued to come up with big hits, and that's what you've got to do in this atmosphere to win games." -- Tigers outfielder Craig Monroe

Next step
The Tigers will head back to Detroit needing to win just two of their next five games to advance to the World Series. Kenny Rogers delivered a gem his last time out, and a similar performance would leave Detroit just one win away from its first trip to the Fall Classic since 1984.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.