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Published: Thursday, 7/20/2006

Very timely slam: Monroe homer backs Bonderman

BY MAUREEN FULTON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Craig Monroe connects for a grand slam in the sixth inning when the Tigers scored all of their runs in a victory over the White Sox last night at Comerica Park. Monroe's second career slam was the first hit by a Tiger this season. Craig Monroe connects for a grand slam in the sixth inning when the Tigers scored all of their runs in a victory over the White Sox last night at Comerica Park. Monroe's second career slam was the first hit by a Tiger this season.
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DETROIT - Just as on Tuesday, last night at Comerica Park fly balls zipped through the summer air and over the fence. But this time, the Chicago White Sox weren't the only ones doing the damage, nor the worst of it.

Craig Monroe hit a grand slam in the sixth inning to give the Detroit Tigers their first offense, and win, of the series. The Tigers won 5-2, with all of their runs coming in the sixth.

With the win, Detroit's lead in the American League Central stretched back to a comfortable 4 1/2 games. And the victory snapped a six-game losing streak at home to the defending world champs and finally gave another weeknight sellout crowd of 39,593 something to cheer about.

Down 2-0 in the sixth, the Tigers (63-31) rallied with four consecutive singles to start the inning, Placido Polanco's infield single to shortstop beginning it. Magglio Ordonez's bouncer through the hole at short scored Polanco.

"Everybody kept chipping away," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

After Marcus Thames grounded out to short, Monroe came up with one career slam under his belt. He golfed one over the left-field fence for another. It was the Tigers' first grand slam of the season.

The home run was "by far the biggest one I've ever hit," Monroe said. He waited a moment before starting his journey around the bases.

"You can't describe it," Monroe said. "The atmosphere, who we're playing, we downplay it, but at the same time, we're chasing them. They're the defending champions.

"No disrespect to the White Sox. But that was a big hit, a really big hit. I just had to stop and admire it for a while."

Before the game Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said the thing he was worried most about with starter Javier Vazquez (9-5) was one bad inning.

"The bases were loaded. I didn't want it to get out of hand," Vazquez said. "I hung a slider and he hit it. I feel like I'm throwing the ball good and something always happens."

Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman (10-4) set a stingy tone in the first inning by striking out the side. He allowed Chicago's daunting 3-4-5 of Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye just one single.

"He's a real trouper," Leyland said. "You certainly feel good when you get in your car, go to work and know he's pitching today."

The White Sox (58-35) have hit 16 home runs against Tigers pitching this season, the most recent two coming last night. Bonderman was tagged for two solo homers, by Joe Crede in the third inning and Juan Uribe in the fifth. But he allowed just two other hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

When he left the game with one out in the eighth inning, the crowd gave him a standing ovation. He eventually tipped his cap.

"I was [mad] because I just walked a guy, and getting a standing ovation, I didn't know whether to be happy or what," Bonderman said.

Despite the playoff atmosphere, Leyland cautioned it's only July.

"[Tuesday] night a lot of people were ready to bury us already," Leyland said. "[Last night] we're back in the graces of everybody. You can't get involved in that stuff as a manager or a team."

But, he conceded, that doesn't mean Tigers fans shouldn't be having fun with the most hyped series in years.

Contact Maureen Fulton at:

mfulton@theblade.com

or 419-724-6160.



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