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Published: Saturday, 4/15/2006

Inge helps launch a Tiger victory

BY JOHN WAGNER
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Brandon Inge, middle, is congratulated by his teammates after one of his two home runs during a victory over Cleveland.
Brandon Inge, middle, is congratulated by his teammates after one of his two home runs during a victory over Cleveland.
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DETROIT Comerica Park seems to have been replaced by Comerica Canaveral.

At least that s the feeling that comes from recent games at the Tigers home park, long considered one of the toughest places in which to hit a home run. Last night the spacious stadium saw three more hits leave the park, including two off the bat of Brandon Inge and a third by Curtis Granderson, in the Tigers 5-1 victory over Cleveland.

The win snapped Detroit s four-game losing streak and was the team s first home win under new manager Jim Leyland, something that did little to excite the Perrysburg native.

It s nice to get a win here, but it s not my first win it s the team s, Leyland said. This isn t about me; it s about the team.

It was a nice crowd, and it was nice to give them a good show. They ve probably been a little disappointed the last three days.

The Tigers broke in front in the second inning thanks to the red-hot Chris Shelton, who followed a single by Magglio Ordonez with a rocket that sizzled past a diving Grady Sizemore in center for a run-scoring triple.

The game turned in the third inning, when the Indians failed to cash in on a big opportunity while the Tigers did.

In the top of the inning the Tribe used a walk and an error to put runners on first and second with one out. Detroit starter Kenny Rogers struck out Jhonny Peralta, then got Travis Hafner to hit a slow roller to shortstop.

One problem: the Tigers were in a shift that had shortstop Carlos Guillen positioned to the right of second base. Guillen solved the problem by ranging well to his right, gloving the ball, and throwing out Hafner at first.

I thought it was an easy ground ball because I forget we had that big shift on, Rogers said. That s without a doubt the softest he s ever going to hit a ground ball off me, but Carlos made a great play.

Detroit then gave itself some breathing room with two runs in the bottom of the inning. Inge led off by smacking a solo home run into the tunnel next to the right-field foul pole, and two pitches later Granderson pounded his third homer of the year, a long shot into the bullpen in center.

I haven t felt good all year, and I talked to [Al] Kaline because he s a Hall of Famer who gives good input, Inge said. I was lunging at the ball, causing me not to hit a breaking ball or a fastball away. He just told me I wasn t seeing the ball.

It made me think to myself that everything else you do is pointless; all you need to do is slow it down and see the ball.

Two more extra-base hits produced two more Tiger runs in the fourth. With one out Guillen sliced a double down the left-field line, and one out later Inge rifled his second home run of the night over the left-field fence.

Inge s two-homer game was the third of his career and made him the fourth Tiger to post a two-homer game this season.

That s just a bad pitch, Indians starter Jake Westbrook said of the pitch Inge hit for his second homer. You can t make a mistake like that against a good-hitting team.

While the Indians had plenty of opportunities they collected seven hits, three walks and a hit batsman while stranding nine runners in eight innings off Rogers they managed just a single run off the lefty, who won in his first Comerica start.

And even that sixth-inning rally was a shell of what it could have been. Hafner led off with a double high off the wall in center, then took third on a single by Victor Martinez. Eduardo Perez followed by hitting into a double play that scored Hafner but cleared the bases.

Rogers definitely was on his game tonight, Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. He didn t get into any patterns, and he wasn t making any mistakes.

As a result the Indians lost for the third time in their last four contests and fell into a first-place tie with the Tigers in the Central Division.

But that s not nearly as amazing as the fact that the Tigers home field has given up 14 home runs in four games or 3.5 per game in a ballpark that last year surrendered a little more than two per contest. Comerica Canaveral indeed.

Contact John Wagner at: jwagner@theblade.com or 419-724-6481.



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