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Published: Thursday, 5/2/2002

Feisty Tigers tame Royals, escape cellar

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - Luis Pujols has been the manager of the Detroit Tigers for about two weeks, but in that short span it appears that the former major league catcher has been able to put some fight back in the team.

It came spilling out yesterday as Detroit battled back several times to take a 7-6 win over Kansas City.

The two teams almost came to blows in the eighth inning when the dugouts cleared during an altercation between Detroit first base coach Rafael Landestoy, Tigers left fielder Bobby Higginson and Kansas City shortstop Neifi Perez.

After Higginson was thrown out at first base, Perez ran off the field and voiced his objections to Landestoy, in Spanish, over Higginson's hard slide into second base attempting to break up a double play in the third inning.

“Perez said something about being sure our guy doesn't come that hard into second,” Pujols said, “but that's not our style. We're going to play baseball that way. We're going to play hard every game. I like the attitude I am seeing in our clubhouse now, and I like the way we're going about our business.”

“I was on base all day, so if he had anything to say to me, he could have said it,” Higginson said. “There was nothing wrong with the slides - that's just baseball. But we play a lot of games against this team, and I guess it is natural for tempers to flare, especially after last year.”

Higginson was called out on the play in question, and the runner at first was ruled out due to interference. Higginson finished the day with his fifth three-hit game of the season, matching his total from all of last year.

“They thought Higgy slid a little wide, but I don't think Higgy was trying to do anything bad, he was just playing good baseball,” Detroit shortstop Shane Halter said.

The Tigers have won five of their last six games, and moved ahead of the Royals and out of last place in the American League Central Division with yesterday's win, but this one did not come easily.

Detroit led 1-0 after Wendell Magee's second-inning home run, and made it 2-0 in the third after hits by Brandon Inge, Damian Jackson and Higginson, but a four-run fifth inning put the Royals in front 4-2. Kansas City put together three singles, a walk and a Detroit error before a Carlos Beltran triple cleared the bases.

Detroit came right back with four runs in the bottom of the inning for a 6-4 advantage. Macias walked, Jackson was hit by a pitch and Higginson slapped a single to center to score Macias. Halter lined his first home run of the season into the seats in left field for a three-run blast.

“What we're doing good right now is we're playing aggressive baseball,” Halter said. “We showed our capability of coming back and doing the little things to keep us in ball games. We realize that when a team comes back on us, we can't give up. There was a lot of game left.”

Kansas City tied the game with a pair of runs in the sixth as A.J. Hinch singled and Carlos Febles walked, and after Macias fielded a ground ball off the bat of Luis Alicea he launched a throw over the head of Detroit first baseman Jacob Cruz, allowing both runners to score.

Detroit got the decisive run in the seventh as Halter and Cruz walked off Kansas City reliever Cory Bailey, and Magee sliced a single to right to score Halter. Magee was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs for his seventh multi-hit game of the season and his fourth three-hit game.

“We've been through some struggles, but I think guys are just going up there and trying to do whatever they can to help this team along,” Magee said. “We had some struggles early, but guys are fighting and battling every day.”

Juan Acevedo worked the final two innings and recorded the Tigers' first save of the season. Pujols said that with regular closer Matt Anderson going the disabled list yesterday, Acevedo will fill the job.

“He's the closer now. That's his role until Anderson comes back,” Pujols said.



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