Tigers come out swinging vs. Angels

Tigers come out swinging vs. Angels

DETROIT -- Jeremy Bonderman's return to the mound felt like he hadn't been out. Magglio Ordonez's stretch, however, feels like nothing he's ever had as a Tiger.

After three weeks worrying about Bonderman's blister, the Tigers instead blistered Angels pitching on Thursday. If Ordonez's four hits and three RBIs weren't enough, Carlos Guillen's two home runs and five RBIs added to the punishment. By the time they were done scoring, the Tigers had a dozen runs through six innings on their way to a 12-0 rubber-game rout of the Angels.

The way manager Jim Leyland saw it, it could've easily been the reverse.

"That's one of those games," Leyland said afterwards, "and this sounds crazy, but if they get four or five in the first inning, they might've won, 12-0. And they had a chance to do that."

Many of Bonderman's starts this year have shaped up like that in the beginning. None of the previous ones, however, saw him get out of it quite like this.

Bonderman chalked it up to not being sharp in his first outing since May 9. Catcher Mike Rabelo thought it could've been early jitters compounded by his return from his first stint on the disabled list. Whatever the reason, Bonderman had the bases loaded three batters into his outing.

"Walked a guy, base hit, and then you've got Vladimir [Guerrero] up," Bonderman said. "I don't want to give him something he can drive, and I ended up walking him. And now I've got bases loaded, no outs. My goal from there was to just give up one, keep the damage down."

For Bonderman, it was a return to normalcy. Opponents entered the day batting .421 with 14 runs scored in Bonderman's first inning. With Gary Matthews Jr. batting 5-for-11 lifetime off Bonderman entering the day, the potential was there for four more.

When Matthews stepped to the plate, Bonderman went to the breaking ball, the pitch on which he used to feel the blister. Matthews hit it right back at him, starting a 1-2-3 double play to erase the runner heading home. Another breaking ball on the next pitch yielded a third out from Casey Kotchman.

"I threw a bullpen [session] and it was good, so I wasn't really worried about it," Bonderman said. "So once I got that out of my mind, it was just a matter of just going out and pitching."

By the time he threw another pitch Thursday, he had a 4-0 lead and counting.

Angels counterpart Santana (3-6) retired leadoff man Curtis Granderson, but not the four Tigers that followed. After hitting Placido Polanco on a 3-2 pitch, he gave up back-to-back singles to Gary Sheffield and Ordonez before Guillen drove a 1-0 pitch deep to right for a three-run shot.

Ordonez stretched his Major League doubles lead with a pair of two-baggers, sending a ball rolling to the fence in the third inning before driving a one-hopper off the left-field fence in the fourth. The latter followed a Sheffield walk and drove in two runs to chase Santana from the game.

Ordonez tied his career high in hits with a line drive over third baseman Chone Figgins leading off the bottom of the sixth. Guillen drove the next pitch deep to right to put the Tigers at an even dozen for runs and give him his fifth career two-homer game, all with Detroit.

It wasn't merely a 4-for-4 game from Ordonez, but a game in which all four were hit hard, coming off three home runs in the first two games of the series. And it's only continuing a trend that has gone for most for the month.

On a team where nobody has hit for more than a .600 slugging percentage since Norm Cash in 1961, and Hank Greenberg's .683 mark from 1938 still stands, Ordonez is now slugging at a .710 clip.

"He's hitting it all over," Leyland said. "He's hitting them to right, right-center, left-center, pulling them. I don't know that I've seen anything quite like it. About as good as it gets."

Ordonez didn't dispute it.

"The best I've felt being here," Ordonez said. "I used to feel like this with Chicago. I'm more patient. I'm swinging at a pitch to hit. I feel good."

It's about as effective a way as the Tigers could have to make sure opponents don't pitch around Sheffield. Any thought of avoiding Ordonez, meanwhile, ends with the sight of Guillen on deck. The trio combined to go 15-for-37 with seven home runs and 14 RBIs in the series.

"Which one do you go to?" Granderson asked. "If you walk this guy, you don't necessarily help yourself. If you pitch to this guy, you're taking a chance. That's a good thing to have."

It was certainly good for Bonderman, who has had his share of low-scoring duels this season.

"From there on out, it was downhill," Rabelo said. "We cruised through eight innings."

Though he stranded runners at the corners in the third and the bases loaded in the fourth en route to five walks for the day, Bonderman seemingly was in control the rest of his afternoon, mixing all of his pitches and retiring Angels hitters early in counts. He sent down 12 of the final 14 batters he faced in order, the only exceptions coming on walks.

"We got a big lead and I just kept pitching," Bonderman said. "I just wanted to keep moving the ball around, threw some changeups late in the game where I needed to, get some work with it. It was a good, fun game."

The only way the blister haunted him was a precautionary factor. Though his pitch count stood at 95 through eight innings, the big lead, the hot afternoon and the chance that it could reopen erased the notion of going for a complete-game shutout.

Leyland said he thought about sending him out but reconsidered, opting to give an inning to Wilfredo Ledezma to finish out Detroit's first shutout since last Aug. 16.

"I'm going to kid him later on," Leyland said. "If he hadn't had a big contract, I'd have left him in there. He's got all that dough now, he doesn't need a shutout."

Between his contract, his health and offensive support Thursday, he had enough in his favor Thursday.

"When we got deep into that game and had a big lead, if [Leyland] wanted to take me out earlier, I wouldn't have blamed him," Bonderman said. "But I felt good out there, and it was fun."

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