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Efficient offense works for Tigers

Efficient, opportunistic offense paces Tigers

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DETROIT -- To win big, the Tigers had to go small.

Well, that's not entirely true. The way Kenny Rogers was pitching against the Yankees on Friday night, running into even one solo home run would have sufficiently gotten the job done in Game 3 of the ALDS.

But as Rogers' incredible performance evolved, the Tigers offense backed up its starter with some timely, patient at-bats that were a testament to the simple power of thinking small.

That hasn't always been the mindset of this Detroit club. The Tigers ranked third in the American League in home runs this year with 203, and those blasts were pivotal in their 95-win season.

Still, homers come only so often.

"You don't win games just by hitting home runs," second baseman Placido Polanco said. "You have to do a little bit of everything."

So that's what the Tigers did in this one, beginning with a run of well-placed base hits off left-hander Randy Johnson in the second.

Carlos Guillen lined a single to right to lead off the inning, and Ivan Rodriguez did likewise to put runners on the corners.

That brought up Sean Casey, and the dribbler he hit just past the glove of second baseman Robinson Cano was enough to bring Guillen home and make it a 1-0 ballgame. It became 2-0 when Curtis Granderson hit into a fielder's choice sharply fielded by Cano that brought in Pudge. And when Polanco grounded one through the hole up the middle with two outs, the three-run outburst was complete.

From there, the game was solely in Rogers' hands -- not that the bats slowed down.

"I think seeing how Kenny was pitching early on," Casey said, "we knew, if we got a few runs, that we would have a good chance of winning."

They got more than a few, thanks to some more punctual production in the sixth.

With Marcus Thames' leadoff walk wiped out by a double-play ball off the bat of Magglio Ordonez, the Tigers had to start the sixth anew.

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Guillen got on board when he hit a sharp line drive off the glove of shortstop Derek Jeter, and Rodriguez, who had yet to get a hit in this series before this game, stepped up.

On a 1-0 pitch, Guillen took off running for second, and Rodriguez slapped Johnson's outside slider down the left-field line. As it caromed around the corner, Guillen easily scored, and Rodriguez had notched an RBI double.

"Pudge did a good job hitting the ball down the line," Guillen said. "We were just trying to get guys on base. Once you get guys on base, the pressure's not on us. It's on the defense and the pitcher to beat us."

Johnson couldn't beat the Tigers lineup on this night. Until Granderson went deep off Brian Bruney in the seventh, they were all about the small.

"For us, manufacturing some runs [with] a couple two-out hits was big," Casey said. "We played some good baseball tonight."

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

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