Tigers sweep Cards for packed house

Monday, June 26, 2006

St. Louis capped an 0-6 interleague road trip with a 4-1 loss to Detroit.

DETROIT -- This weekend, the Detroit Tigers drew more fans to Comerica Park for three consecutive games than they ever have in its seven-season history.

Brandon Inge said the 125,417 people that crammed into every nook and cranny of the ballpark -- and those nonpaying customers perched on the parking garage beyond the left-field wall -- witnessed a transformation.

Curtis Granderson hit a go-ahead RBI double in a three-run eighth inning and Detroit finished a three-game sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals with a 4-1 victory Sunday.

The Tigers have won nine of 10, maintaining the best record in baseball and holding off the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central. Just three years ago, Inge was playing for Detroit when it lost an AL-record 119 games.

"This series wraps up how much of a change it's been," said Inge, who made spectacular plays at third base to help complete the sweep. "All these years, we've been talking about being better. Finally now, with these games and with as many people that have been out, it finally seems like we're there.

"There's no fluke anymore. There's no, we'll see how they do in the first half, or after 50 games. We are a good team."

The Cardinals are, too, but they're in a rare slump -- losing six straight for the first time since 2002.

A day after Granderson helped the Tigers rally to a 7-6 win in 10 innings, the 25-year-old center fielder came through for them again against St. Louis.

"To be successful in those situations, you have to genuinely want to be in those situations," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "And he's for real."

Inge agreed.

"Granderson is my clutch MVP for the first half," he said.

The Tigers chased Sidney Ponson with two singles in the eighth, putting runners on the corners with one out before Randy Flores relieved.

Granderson then hit a double over center fielder Jim Edmonds' head, scoring Alexis Gomez.

"I try my best to not outthink it because it's really easy to think way too much, especially when you have the amount of fans out there being as loud as they are," said Granderson, explaining his mind-set in pressure situations. "I don't try to hit the ball 500 feet, I just try to get the job done."

Placido Polanco and Ivan Rodriguez followed Granderson's hit with RBI singles off Brad Thompson to put Detroit ahead 4-1.

Ponson (4-3) gave up two runs and six hits over 7 1/3 innings. He had a solid performance after giving up 17 runs in his three previous outings, two of which were starts. He threw 79 pitches against Detroit -- 51 for strikes.

"It's tough to pitch better than that," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "To see 'loss, Ponson', that's tough to take."

Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman allowed one run, seven hits and a walk over seven innings, throwing a season-high 116 pitches. Bonderman had eight strikeouts after striking out 12 in each of his previous two starts.

"He kept us in there so we could win," Leyland said.

In the eighth inning, rookie Joel Zumaya struck out Albert Pujols on an 85 mph pitch after he fouled off a 101 mph fastball.

"If Pujols is thinking fastball, fastball and you throw a fastball, that pitch is in the seats," Leyland said.

Scott Rolen followed with a single but was stranded at second when Wilfredo Ledezma (1-0) got two straight popups. Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 23 opportunities.

"Their pitching is great and they have power," St. Louis infielder Aaron Miles said. "And when you get into their bullpen, they're blowing pretty good stuff at you."

The Cardinals went ahead 1-0 in the second on Miles' RBI single, scoring John Rodriguez after he led off with a double.

Detroit's Magglio Ordonez tied the score with an RBI single in the fourth, bringing Ivan Rodriguez home after his leadoff double.


The Cardinals lost seven straight from July 31 to Aug. 7, 2002.

Facing a 2-1 count in the seventh inning, St. Louis catcher Gary Bennett left the game with a left oblique strain and was replaced by Yadier Molina.

Ivan Rodriguez played for the first time since his wrist was bruised Friday night. He made his third career start at first base.

Edmonds was in the lineup after missing three games because of a concussion.

The Tigers attracted their third straight sellout, a crowd of 40,644.

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