Tigers' bats come alive against Mariners

Tigers' bats come alive against Mariners

DETROIT -- The game plan for Mariners starter Jarrod Washburn was simple: Make an aggressive-swinging Tigers lineup chase pitches.

In that, he succeeded. But just about everything they chased, they hit.

Wednesday's 9-4 Tigers win wasn't a power display, aside from Marcus Thames' grand slam. It wasn't an exhibition of patient Detroit hitters working a wild pitcher, either. But the numbers show that the Tigers did what they had generally been unable to do lately. They hit the ball around the park on a pitcher who was there for the hitting.

Washburn threw 43 of his 60 pitches for strikes, but 12 of them were Tigers hits. Of his other 31 strikes, just two of them were swings and misses.

Detroit put up 11 hits in a 13-batter span between a two-run second inning and seven-run third. One of the outs was a screaming line drive from Ivan Rodriguez back up the middle that Washburn somehow snared for the out.

At one point in the Tigers' seven-run third inning, they hit four singles on four consecutive pitches to the middle of the order. Gary Sheffield, Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen advanced runners base to base before Thames cleared them.

It was one of those kinds of days. The Tigers hadn't enjoyed many of them recently until this series.

"I don't think we were doing anything that different," said Brandon Inge, who had a two-run double in the second before tripling in the third. "Everything we hit went into a hole somewhere. We put good at-bats together, but we've had games like that before where everything we've hit like that has gone right at someone, and that inning doesn't even happen. And that's when people start to say, 'Well, they're not swinging the bats.'"

Manager Jim Leyland, too, was pragmatic about their outing. Still, it was better than what they had been doing.

"It wasn't like we knocked the ball all over the place," Leyland said, "but we found some right spots and we put the bat on the ball."

Washburn (2-6) came into Wednesday's game having allowed a .250 batting average to the Tigers in 13 career starts. For the first six batters, he seemed headed that way again, allowing a leadoff hit before retiring the next five in order. Two of them were caught looking at called third strikes on the corner, including an offspeed pitch on the inside to Cabrera. From there, though, the Tigers caught up.

Washburn said many of the hits he gave up in the third were on pitches outside the strike zone, and he might have a point. He tried to work Ordonez and Cabrera inside again to no avail, among others, while his last pitch of the night was a fastball outside on an 0-2 pitch to Rodriguez, who flared it to right field for an RBI single and Detroit's final run of the night.

Thames, however, pounced on a 1-1 fastball inside and drove it deep to left field for his fifth career grand slam. Four of them have come at Comerica Park.

"He jammed me a little bit," Thames said, "but it got out for me, and it was a big hit for us."

Ryan Rowland-Smith and Cha Seung Baek retired 16 of Detroit's 18 batters from that point on, but it didn't matter. Detroit went 7-for-10 with runners in scoring position, and now stands at 12-for-22 so far this series. The Tigers stranded just four runners on base for the second consecutive night, just two of them in scoring position.

"We're going up there and having some good at-bats," Thames said. "When you have good at-bats, good things can happen, and that's what's been going on."

Detroit starter Kenny Rogers (4-4) made that run support hold, though he had a long fifth inning to qualify for the win. An RBI single and three walks, one with the bases loaded, had Rogers struggling to get through five before he induced a Jose Vidro fly ball. Richie Sexson's leadoff homer in the sixth set up Rogers' exit two batters later on a Jamie Burke single.

Lost in that, however, was a solid performance by Rogers through the first four innings. Yuniesky Betancourt's leadoff homer in the third was Rogers' only real damage until the fifth, as he efficiently put away Mariners hitters.

"I think he was getting strike one," Leyland said, "and then he was getting too perfect a little bit."

Still, it was a solid enough performance to even Rogers' record at 4-4. He has won four of his last five decisions.

With that kind of support, he could be in line to continue that kind of run. Whether these last two games can start the Tigers on a roll, however, is something on which even Leyland isn't going to speculate.

"I'm not going to get carried away," he said. "We've seen signs of that before. I'm very confident that this team can put runs on the board, but we just have to get in a groove and do it on a consistent basis. We've had a couple good nights with the bat, taken advantage of a few mistakes, and tonight we hit the ball in the right places at the right time."

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