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Tigers take Game 2 of doubleheader

Tigers take Game 2 of doubleheader

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DETROIT -- After all the ups and downs on Tuesday, not to mention the season as a whole, the Tigers are still in it. Amazingly, Jair Jurrjens is still in the thick of it.

Hours after the Tigers tied a franchise record by giving up seven home runs in a game, Jurrjens and three relievers didn't give up an extra-base hit. They began the day with six runs of support that didn't even cut their first-game deficit in half, then ended it with three first-inning runs that were enough for a win.

Manager Jim Leyland began the day with scribbles all over his calendar for a starting pitching schedule. He ended it with -- well, he still has a lot of days to fill.

"We're still scuffling [to fill out a rotation]," Leyland said after Jurrjens' five innings helped the Tigers salvage a day-night doubleheader split with a 4-1 win over the Rangers. "I change this [calendar] every other second. I don't know what we're going to do yet. We've just had one of those years where we keep juggling. We're hanging in there, but I don't know what's going to happen yet."

Other than Justin Verlander and Nate Robertson, there's really not much stability at all. Jeremy Bonderman is out for at least his next turn, if not the rest of the season, with his inflamed elbow. Leyland will wait and see how Kenny Rogers' arm feels tomorrow before deciding when he'll start again. Chad Durbin remains an option, though he was pulled in the third inning of the 13-6 loss on Tuesday afternoon. Leyland mentioned Yorman Bazardo as a starting option and Virgil Vasquez for a possible spot start, too.

Yet after Jurrjens' performance, Leyland can at least pencil in the 21-year-old right-hander as a legitimate option. He'll still have to see how Jurrjens feels on Wednesday and then going into the weekend, but pitching-wise, he provides enough to stick in the rotation.

"He's a real good prospect, obviously. That's what he is," Leyland said. "He's helped us out when we needed him up to this point."

On Tuesday, they needed plenty of help. Jurrjens, pitching for the first time in two weeks, provided it.

When Jurrjens went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder five batters into his start against the Yankees on Aug. 26, there were plenty of questions as to whether he would pitch again this season. If he would, the initial thought was that he might be limited to relief work down the stretch. This day-night doubleheader gave Jurrjens his shot at another start.

It wasn't the same as his Major League debut, but it was still big enough to get him to the ballpark at around 4 p.m. for the 7 p.m. start, just as the first game ended. He had tried sleeping in, tried playing video games, and eventually just gave up on diversions.

Facing a team that pounded the ball earlier in the day, Jurrjens took advantage of the opportunity. It wasn't exactly like his dazzling starts last month, but it was effective pitching that left a slew of broken bats around the infield.

"I think they tore up about 18,000 bats," Rangers manager Ron Washington said.

Other than some lingering soreness, possibly exacerbated by the first chilly evening of the impending autumn in Detroit, there wasn't much obvious effect from the layover. Jurrjens' fastball topped out around 94 mph, just shy of where it was before the injury, and sat regularly at 92 mph. His changeup was good enough to keep hitters off balance.

While the stuff was there, the command took an inning or two to come around.

"In the first inning, I was rusty, trying to overthrow," Jurrjens said. "I really having problems hitting my spots, especially with my fastball. Second inning, I just tried to calm down, hit my spots and tried to get outs."

The lone Rangers run came from two singles out of Texas' first three batters. Former Tiger Frank Catalanotto led off the game with a single to right and reached third base when Michael Young hit a high fastball for a line drive off the right-field fence. The ball was hit hard enough to deny him a chance at extra bases.

Marlon Byrd, who hit two home runs in the afternoon game, flied out deep enough to drive in Catalanotto. From there, Jurrjens retired 13 of the final 15 batters he faced, including a 94 mph fastball to escape the first with a strikeout of Brad Wilkerson.

"He's awfully young yet, and he needs a little bit more work to refine his breaking ball and changeup a little bit better," Leyland said. "But he's got the number one ingredient that you're looking for, and that's the ability to spot a 92-94 mph fastball. That's pretty good if a kid can do that. A lot of kids can throw it at 92-94, but he can spot it at 92-94."

If he was nearly the same on velocity, his movement made up any difference. He broke at least two bats along the way, and he induced one ground ball after another from the second inning into the fourth.

"From the side, the guy didn't look like he had his ball running," Washington said, "but they were coming back saying it was running so they did a good job. [He] did a great job of keeping us off balance."

No other Ranger reached scoring position until back-to-back singles off Jason Grilli in the seventh. Fernando Rodney ended the threat, then retired the potential tying run again in the eighth. Todd Jones worked the ninth for his 34th save of the season and his first since Aug. 26.

Because the Indians and Yankees still won, the Tigers still lost ground in their playoff chase at night's end, back to four games down in the Wild Card and 6 1/2 games back in the AL Wild Card. They need more wins, but they also need a little help from teams to beat New York and Cleveland.

Tuesday was help in itself, simply to get the Tigers another option to start down the stretch. Leyland has to figure out his pitchers' chances of starting as much as his team's chances of winning, but they're still in it, and Jurrjens is still in it.

"If he's healthy, he's going to start again at some point," Leyland said, "whether it's the fifth day [from now] or next Tuesday."

Jason Beck 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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