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Published: Thursday, 7/20/2006

Tigers look like leaders for 1 night

DETROIT - For one night, the Detroit Tigers finally looked like the biggest, baddest team in the American League's Central Division, not the Chicago White Sox.

The Tigers faced an early two-run deficit against the defending World Series champions last night, and it looked like they were on their way to getting declawed yet again.

But with one thunderous swing of the bat in the sixth inning, Craig Monroe delivered Detroit's first grand slam of the season, and that slammed the door on a 5-2 victory over Chciago.

More importantly, Monroe's blast gave the Tigers their first home victory in five tries against the White Sox.

Detroit, playing its biggest home series in almost two decades, desperately needed this win against the pesky South Siders.

Entering last night's game, the Sox had controlled the season series, winning six of the first seven meetings, as well as 18 of the last 23 overall.

Worse yet, Chicago was 4-0 at Comerica Park this year, and 11-2 the last two seasons.

Talk about domination.

If you didn't know any better, you'd have sworn the White Sox had the best record in baseball, not the Tigers.

But all is better now in the Motor City, if only for a night.

Detroit still has the best record in baseball at 63-31, and the Sox have the second-best mark at 58-35.

The Tigers, who have been alone in first place in the Central since May 21, stretched their lead back to a season-high 4 1/2 games over Chicago.

"I wish we would have won more games against the White Sox, but it's not like we're getting blown out," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "We've lost a lot of close games. It's not that we've played badly - the White Sox have just played really, really well.

"We finally put it all together tonight. It feels good to get a win. We worked hard for this one."

After today's finale in the three-game series, the Tigers and Sox will face each other 10 more times, including a three-game set in Chicago in the next-to-last week of the season that very well could decide the Central race.

The Tigers are 27-12 against teams from the Central, the White Sox are 22-14.

Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman allowed just two runs and four hits in 71/3 innings against the Sox last night, and both were long balls.

That's not real surprising.

Chicago has homered in seven consecutive games. The Sox lead the AL with 141 round-trippers.

Joe Crede tagged Bonderman for a solo shot in the third - 12 of his 41 career homers have come at Comerica - and Jose Uribe followed suit in the sixth.

But even though the Tigers have struggled to beat the AL's elite teams this year - they are 4-11 against the White Sox, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox - they didn't fold this time.

Monroe, the former Mud Hens slugger, and Bonderman, the No. 2 starter on a staff that leads the majors in ERA, wouldn't let them.

Bonderman allowed just four hits before leaving in the eighth. He is 9-1 this year in night games and has allowed two or fewer runs in eight of his last nine starts.

"He was brilliant," Monroe said.

Strong individual performances and come-from-behind victories have been commonplace in the Tigers' turnaround season.



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