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Published: Thursday, 5/1/2008

Tigers putting start in the past

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gene Lamont congratulates Placido Polanco for the second time last night as the second baseman hit two home runs. Gene Lamont congratulates Placido Polanco for the second time last night as the second baseman hit two home runs.
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NEW YORK The Detroit Tigers awful start is becoming a distant memory.

Placido Polanco homered twice and Marcus Thames also went deep to help Detroit beat New York 6-2 last night in the Yankees first game with Alex Rodriguez on the disabled list.

Jeremy Bonderman pitched into the eighth inning after getting off to a rough start and Gary Sheffield had two hits for Detroit (13-15), which has won seven of nine.

The $139 million Tigers opened the season with seven straight losses.

Our hitting and pitching is a lot better now, catcher IvanRodriguez said.

With Alex Rodriguez sidelined by a strained right quadriceps, slumping New York managed just two hits after the first inning. The Yankees have scored just 15 runs in their last five games.

A-Rod went on the DL for the first time since July 2000 before the game and he got some company later when struggling starter Phil Hughes was placed on the injured list with a strained right oblique muscle. Hughes is 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in six starts this year.

Longtime catcher Jorge Posada also is on the DL with an ailing throwing shoulder.

You lose those guys it s going to hurt your team, said Andy Pettitte, who lost his second straight start. You realize that but it s the same old story. Everybody has injuries and nobody s going to feel sorry for you.

Certainly not the Tigers, who know all about dealing with injuries they re missing starter Dontrelle Willis, key relievers Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney, and catcher Vance Wilson.

Detroit should get a boost tonight when reliever Francisco Cruceta comes off the restricted list. The Tigers cleared the way for the right-hander to join the team in New York by trading right-hander Jason Grilli to the Colorado Rockies for minor league pitcher Zachary Simons before last night s game.

Cruceta, who had problems getting a work visa this spring, had a successful stint with Triple-A Toledo a 1-0 record with a 1.29 ERA and could be a valuable setup man for Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

The Tigers didn t need much bullpen help last night. Bonderman (2-2) allowed Jason Giambi s sacrifice fly and Melky Cabrera s RBI single in the first inning before settling into a groove. He retired 12 straight over one stretch and allowed five hits in a season-best 72/3 innings.

I was able to be aggressive, put those guys on their heels and make them swing early in counts and that got me deep in the game, Bonderman said.

Leyland visited Bonderman after he ran into trouble in the first.

You don t want to know what I told him, I can tell you that, Leyland said. He started being more aggressive with his pitching. He started throwing the ball inside better. He started pounding the ball inside better, mixed in some changeups, and that made his night.

Detroit went in front for good in the fifth. Edgar Renteria singled off Pettitte (3-3) with one out and Thames hit the next pitch over the wall in left-center to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead. It was Thames second homer of the season.

[Pettitte] had a sinker that actually cut on him a little bit, cut back across the middle of the plate, New York manager Joe Girardi said, and Marcus Thames hit a two-run homer. The ball does what it s usually going to do, you re probably not in that situation.

Polanco hit leadoff homers in the sixth and eighth innings. He went 4-for-5 and scored two runs in Detroit s 6-4 win Tuesday night in the opener of the series matching the teams with the two highest opening-day payrolls in baseball.

Pettitte allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings. He was 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA in his previous five starts against Detroit at Yankee Stadium.

New York has lost five of its last seven.

NOTES: Yankees RHP Brian Bruney has decided to rehab his injured right foot instead of opting for season-ending surgery. The club is hoping to get him back in August. ... The Yankees optioned C Chris Stewart to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and recalled reliever Chris Britton from their top farm club just one day after they sent him down. They also signed catcher Chad Moeller after designating him for assignment on Friday. Reliever Sean Henn was reinstated from a rehab stint and designated for assignment to make room on the 40-man roster.



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