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Published: Saturday, 5/13/2006

Bottom of order keeps Tigers on top of Tribe

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

CLEVELAND - The depth of the Tigers' pitching staff has been offered as the main reason for Detroit's hot start.

That might be true, but the Tigers' lineup is giving chase to that theory.

In Detroit's 5-4 win over the Indians at Jacobs Field last night, the Tigers' bottom half of the order had two doubles, two home runs and four RBIs.

Marcus Thames (sixth batter) and Craig Monroe (eighth) led the way with long balls, Monroe's seventh-inning blast putting the Tigers ahead for good. It was the ninth home run for the Tigers out of the eighth spot.

"We can strike from just about any position," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I like the depth of [the lineup]."

Seventh-place batter Chris Shelton had two hits and scored a run, and ninth-place batter Brandon Inge had two hits and an RBI.

The Tigers (22-13) have 14 road wins, the most in the majors.

The Indians (17-19) have lost four straight and five of six.

"We're in one of those stretches right now and we've just got to work our way out of it," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. "I think some guys are trying to do a bit too much. I've told them if they just do what they're capable of doing individually, everything will work out right as a team."

To start off Detroit's scoring Thames hit a home run to left in the second inning. The Tigers added another run in the fifth when Inge singled in Monroe.

In the bottom of the inning Indians right fielder Casey Blake hit his first of two solo home runs in the game, and Cleveland tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the sixth on a Travis Hafner

RBI single.

When the Tigers came to bat again, Shelton led off with a single and Monroe drove him home with a shot to right-center field.

"Fortunately we jumped right back in it," Leyland said. "Craig's hit as many big home runs as anybody."

The Indians scored a run in the seventh and eighth innings but Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his eighth save. Kenny Rogers

(6-2) got his third straight win.

"They hit some line drives right at people," Rogers said. "I felt decent. I don't think you can go through a lineup like that without decent stuff and get them out."

The Tigers saved a few runs with savvy defensive plays in the outfield.

Curtis Granderson deprived Grady Sizemore of two hits to deep center field, and Monroe played an Eduardo Perez hit off the wall in left well enough to throw Perez out at second.

"We all know that defense wins games, and to be able to make a play, yeah, it feels good," Monroe said.

Indians left-hander Cliff Lee

(2-4) took the loss, giving up 11 hits in seven innings.

"I was throwing strikes and doing well and then in the seventh they kind of got me," Lee said. "This loss was totally my fault. We scored a run to tie it, and I gave the lead right back. I let us down."

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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