Ordonez's pair backs Miner's gem

Ordonez's pair backs Miner's gem

MILWAUKEE -- Rick Helling struck out the side on nine pitches in his first inning off the disabled list Tuesday. Then the Tigers struck back.

"What's amazing to me about that game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Tuesday's 10-1 rout of the Brewers, "is Helling strikes out the side on nine pitches in the first inning. And the first pitch of the second inning, he's down."

Magglio Ordonez's home run was just the start of it. By the time Helling threw his 40th pitch of the game in the third inning, the Tigers had a 6-0 lead and Ordonez had hit two of his pitches over the left-field fence. It was a momentum swing built on the home run swing.

"There's no defense for them," Leyland said, "and you score runs quick."

Ordonez was among those watching as Helling sent down Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco and Ivan Rodriguez in the first. While many of the 33,119 at Miller Park applauded Helling's first inning, Ordonez quietly observed, then adjusted.

There was a reason why the Tigers could turn the momentum so quickly. They saw strikes, so they hit strikes.

"I watched the first three hitters," Ordonez said, "and I was going to swing at the first pitch if it was a strike. He threw me a strike and I put a good swing on it. I was ready for the first pitch."

Ordonez already had a history with Helling. The outfielder entered the game 5-for-19 against Helling with three home runs and a double. Ordonez hit the first pitch he saw from Helling deep to left for his first home run since June 3 against the Red Sox.

The rest of the Tigers teed off in turn. Carlos Guillen hit the first strike he saw from Helling off the right-field fence for a double and came around on back-to-back fly balls from Chris Shelton and Craig Monroe.

Zack Miner's first Major League hit, a double into the right-center-field gap leading off the third, helped Detroit on its way to breaking open the lead. Granderson doubled in Miner and Polanco singled before Ordonez launched another Helling pitch an estimated 419 feet to left for his 15th home run of the season.

"I don't know the exact numbers," Helling said of his meetings against Ordonez, "but I have a pretty good idea of who hits me well and guys that don't. I know I've had a hard time getting him out in the past and there's a reason why he is who he is. He's a good hitter against everybody and against me it's just not a good matchup."

It wasn't just Ordonez, and it wasn't just Helling (0-1), who was pulled after an ensuing five-pitch walk to Guillen. Monroe finished Helling's damage two batters later with a two-run homer off Carlos Villanueva, who had been slated to start this game until the Brewers opted for Helling earlier this week.

"Today was definitely a good start for me, to hit up the middle and stay up the middle," said Monroe, playing for the first time since last Wednesday. His time had been limited because of a sprained right ankle and the loss of the designated hitter in Interleague Play.

Villanueva gave up another two-run shot to Ivan Rodriguez in the fourth after hitting Polanco with two outs. The Tigers struck out seven times through the first four innings and 10 times in the game, but they didn't strand a runner on base until the eighth.

The power display was in stark contrast to Monday night's 3-1 Tigers win, when back-to-back bunt singles and errors fueled a three-run eighth. It looked more like Sunday's 12-3 win over the Cubs at Wrigley Field, when the Tigers tied a franchise record with eight home runs. Of the Tigers' 101 home runs on the year, 67 have come on the road. Two-thirds of their runs have come away from Comerica Park, too.

Leyland doesn't care about raw power numbers.

"What you want to see is power when it benefits you a lot," Leyland said. "Tonight, that's good power, because it gets you out in front. Power [when you're] down 9-1, the homers aren't nearly as significant."

Tuesday's power meant plenty to Miner in his fourth Major League start. He didn't feel right in his first two innings, so he changed his T-shirt from long sleeves to short ones. By the time he came back out for the third, he might've been able to win with sandals on.

"It was huge," Miner said of the runs. "I didn't feel comfortable at all the first two innings. I wasn't getting ahead, and when I did get ahead, they hit the ball hard."

Miner benefited from Ordonez before he even got to the plate. He gave up a walk to Rickie Weeks and a Corey Koskie single to start the bottom of the first, but when Weeks slipped rounding second base, Ordonez alertly fired the ball behind the runner. Guillen made the tag for a critical first out.

With ample support, Miner (3-1) fell one out shy of his first Major League shutout, settling for his first complete game and third consecutive victory. He retired 20 consecutive batters from Helling's strikeout ending the second inning until Koskie doubled off the right-field fence with one out in the ninth. Corey Hart plated Koskie with a two-out single through the left side.

Once the Brewers were down big and started looking for those aforementioned homers, Miner used their aggressiveness against them.

"I think the runs settled him down a bit," Leyland said. "Early on, he wasn't using his changeup. He started using his changeup and that made him a different pitcher the rest of the game."

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