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Tigers pound their way to sweep

Tigers pound their way to sweep

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WASHINGTON -- To succeed in Interleague Play, it helps when your manager has more than a decade of experience in the other league.

Jim Leyland swapped and double-swapped with ease as the Tigers swept the Nationals with an 8-4 victory Wednesday.

Right-hander Jeremy Bonderman had thrown only 77 pitches as the team came to bat in the sixth inning, but with the bases loaded, Leyland called for a pinch-hitter to break open what was, at that point, a close game.

"This is the National League," Bonderman said. "I would have liked to go back out, but I know how it works. I'm not Gary Sheffield."

Bonderman did stay in the game long enough to improve his record to 8-0. He's now gone 17 consecutive starts without losing, but won't compare himself to anybody else on the all-time charts, which he is rapidly ascending.

"This game is hard enough as it is," he said.

The sixth inning started with Nationals reliever Saul Rivera walking two of the three batters he faced before being removed. Brandon Inge singled to bring home a run and keep the bases loaded for Omar Infante.

Infante fouled off eight pitches and took three balls before connecting on an RBI single to keep the rally going.

"He's so valuable because not many guys can do what he does, and give you a quality at-bat like that," Leyland said.

That's when Bonderman was substituted out for Sheffield, as the Tigers saw an opportunity to put the game away. Sheffield got the pitch he was looking for, but overswung and ended up popping out.

Curtis Granderson picked up the slack, hitting a two-run single that made the game 8-3 in favor of Detroit.

Detroit's hits came from across the board, and in the late innings, Leyland substituted at a National League pace, using 17 players during the game.

Leyland said his team has had strong at-bats recently, and attributed that to patience in the batter's box. The players are not chasing pitches, but making opponents throw them strikes.

Magglio Ordonez has led the offensive charge, and he raised his average to .383 after a trio of singles on Wednesday.

"He's gone the other way a couple times in this series, and he's got some big hits," Leyland said. "He didn't smoke it, but he put it in play."

Detroit put up 32 runs in the three games against the Nationals, and backed it up with solid pitching. Bonderman was relieved by Jason Grilli, Tim Byrdak and Fernando Rodney, who only allowed one run to set the stage for closer Todd Jones, who delivered a perfect ninth inning.

The Tigers never trailed, opening the game with a run in the first, scored by Craig Monroe on Ordonez's single. With two on, Carlos Guillen grounded into a double play to end the inning.

In the fourth, Guillen atoned with a two-run home run that hit the top of the left-field fence and bounced over, making the score 3-0.

Bonderman finally ran into trouble in the fourth, giving up a single to Felipe Lopez and then making an errant throw on a pickoff attempt that allowed Lopez to advance to third. Dmitri Young and Ryan Church had RBI singles, and Austin Kearns scored on a wild pitch to tie the game.

Bonderman didn't allow another run after that, and stayed around long enough to get on base. In the fifth inning, he hit an easy grounder to Nationals shortstop Cristian Guzman, who bobbled the ball. Bonderman had assumed it would be an out, but the first-base coach yelled at him to run after the error, and he made it to first.

He'll put away his bats for the rest of the season, but Bonderman says he's keeping one of them -- the one he used to get his only hit of the season against the Phillies.

"Hey, I might not ever get another one," he said.

Michael Phillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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