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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Gerut HR is decisive: Tiger killer trumps homer by Higginson

BY STEVE JUNGA
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Jody Gerut, who went 4-for-5 for Cleveland, connects for a home run in the 10th inning. He's hitting .417 against Detroit this year. Jody Gerut, who went 4-for-5 for Cleveland, connects for a home run in the 10th inning. He's hitting .417 against Detroit this year.
DUANE BURLESON / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - The Olde English "D" had come to stand for "drama" at Comerica Park in the last week, and the resurgent Detroit Tigers still had a bit of heroics left for the 25,159 fans yesterday.

This time, however, Cleveland's Jody Gerut - a true Tiger killer this year - rewrote the final act as the Indians avoided a three-game sweep and ended Detroit's season-best, six-game winning streak with a 7-6 victory.

After Bobby Higginson had pounded a clutch, game-tying solo home run into the bullpen in right field for Detroit with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Gerut answered against Tiger closer Ugueth Urbina with a one-out solo homer into the same bullpen to provide Cleveland with the winning margin in the top of the 10th.

Both right fielders capped 4-for-5 outings with their respective long-balls, but Tribe reliever Rick White held Detroit scoreless in the 10th to make Gerut's hit hold up and earn his first save.

"That was great," said Gerut, who broke a string of 15 games without an RBI yesterday. "We've had a lot of games where, coming down the stretch, we haven't been able to close it up.

"The team was up and just real strong today.

In the end, we just really, really didn't want to get swept."

David Riske (4-2), the fourth of five Tribe hurlers, got the win despite serving up Higginson's fourth homer of the season.

The win put Cleveland (38-39) back on top of the Tigers (37-40) by one game in the American League's Central Division standings, and prevented Detroit from taking its second straight three-game sweep. The Tigers won three here in an interleague series against Arizona before beating the Tribe twice.

Gerut, who went 5-for-5 with a home run and three doubles against Detroit in a 10-3 win at Cleveland back on April 16, is hitting .417 (15-for-36) in nine games against the Tigers this season.

"It is what it is," Gerut said of his success against the Tigers. "I swear I don't come in here thinking that I'm going to be padding anything. It's just one of those things."

The Tigers had pounded Cleveland with a 17-hit attack in a 12-5 win here Wednesday night after winning all of its previous three games at Comerica on walk-off home runs.

Eric Munson hit the first game-winner on Saturday, Carlos Pena the second (a grand slam) on Sunday, and Dmitri Young (a two-run shot) Tuesday. No major league team has ever won four consecutive games with walk-off homers.

This time Munson ended a dismal 0-for-5 day by striking out against White to end the game.

Tribe leadoff hitter Matt Lawton had staked his team to a 3-0 lead in the third inning by hammering a three-run homer, his 12th of the season, off Tiger starter Jason Johnson.

Lawton's home-run trot stimulated some words between he and Johnson, an exchange that drew a warning to both teams from the umpires.

"He knows if he hangs the ball, that's what we're supposed to do," Lawton said of Johnson's response. "That's what we get paid to do. When guys make mistakes, you're supposed to hit it out of the park. I'm kind of surprised he's not used to that by now."

"We've been having that kind of luck all year," Lawton said of the Indians' inability to hold leads. "We get the lead and give it up. Usually [opponents] come back and leave us out there on the field. But today, Riske gave us a chance to get back in there and Jody came up with the big home run."

Detroit had a prime chance to win the game after Higginson's homer in the ninth when Ivan Rodriguez followed with a double to the corner in right. But Riske walked Young intentionally, then fanned Carlos Guillen and got Craig Monroe to pop out to short to force the extra inning.

Contact Steve Junga at:

sjunga@theblade.com

or 419-724-6461



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