"We came in here prepared," said Chris Shelton, one of two Tigers with two-homer games. "I think it's starting to come together that we're playing well again."
Manager Jim Leyland called it a matter of catching a team at the right time, in this case an injury-riddled Cubs ballclub struggling to score runs and trying to find ways to stop the other team from doing it. Timing or not, Sunday highlighted one of the biggest differences from the Tigers this season in the ability to pounce on a struggling team and not let up.
While Rogers (10-3) simultaneously became the first Major Leaguer to 10 wins this season and the 105th in history to 200 wins, the Tigers' offense made Mark Prior's first start of the season one he'd like to forget. Their record power trip began with the first batter of the game.
Curtis Granderson worked the count full before hitting his first career leadoff home run. After Placido Polanco singled, Vance Wilson laid down a sacrifice and reached base when Prior bounced a throw to first base. Prior finally retired Magglio Ordonez for the first out, but Carlos Guillen followed by lining a 3-1 pitch to left for a three-run homer.
Prior walked Marcus Thames on five pitches, then fell behind on a 2-0 count to Shelton, who launched a 3-1 pitch to center for his 13th home run of the year.
Granderson, Guillen and Shelton became the first trio of Tigers to homer in the first inning of a game since Lou Whitaker, Cecil Fielder and Rob Deer did it against the Red Sox on May 26, 1991.
The six-run first inning meant Rogers got to the plate before he got to the mound. He wasn't taking any swings, but the rest of the Tigers weren't done with theirs.
Inge, Sunday's other two-homer Tiger, believes Rogers' looming milestone served as a motivation for everyone else, and why they didn't let up with their early outburst.
"This wasn't going to be one of those games where we get six runs and cruise," Inge said. "This is too small a ballpark. We were going to keep adding on."
Prior (0-1) also gave up three home runs in an inning last July 24 against the Cardinals. He lasted until Wilson, batting third in place of Ivan Rodriguez, hit a two-run shot with two outs in the fourth.
Rogers retired the first seven batters he faced until Henry Blanco hit his second home run of the series. Aramis Ramirez added a solo shot leading off the fourth, but Rogers scattered just two singles the rest of the afternoon. He retired the last seven batters he faced before leaving after eight innings.
When Inge was making his postgame speech to Rogers, he joked that they'd have a jersey for his 300th win if he could get there. With this kind of support, Rogers said, he might get it.
Rogers received little more than an "attaboy" from Inge and others for his first career double, a line drive down the left-field line off former Tiger Roberto Novoa. That followed back-to-back solo shots from Shelton and Inge, Detroit's seventh and eighth homers on the day to tie the franchise record set on June 20, 2000, at Toronto.
Both Inge and Shelton had two-homer games in April, when the team was putting on a power display almost daily. Sunday's display was bigger for Shelton, who until this week looked nothing like the early-season slugger who caught the league's attention with nine April homers and two two-homer games in the season's opening week. He went 5-for-12 this series and heads to Milwaukee batting 7-for-15 over his last four games.
"It's gone back even before the last couple days," Shelton said. "I've been feeling good the last five, six days. I just try to keep positive and put good swings on the ball. Hopefully I can stay this way."
With all that happened this weekend, the Tigers wish every series could be like this.
"The stars are lining up," said Jason Grilli, who relieved Rogers in the ninth. "It's a great thing to be a part of. I think it's something special."