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Published: Thursday, 6/19/2008

Tigers top Giants to rack up 8 victories in 9 games

Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco had four hits, two RBIs and scored three runs yesterday in the victory over the Giants. He raised his batting average to .316. Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco had four hits, two RBIs and scored three runs yesterday in the victory over the Giants. He raised his batting average to .316.

SAN FRANCISCO - Jim Leyland didn't expect Detroit to fix things over night. The Tigers' manager sure is thrilled to see his team back on track and on a little roll.

Placido Polanco had four hits, drove in two runs and scored three as the Detroit Tigers knocked struggling San Francisco starter Barry Zito out after only two innings yesterday and took the rubber game from the Giants 7-2.

The Tigers have won eight of their last nine games and 10 of 12.

Armando Galarraga (7-2) didn't allow an earned run in six innings and struck out five to win his third straight start and fourth consecutive decision since a defeat to Minnesota on May 23.

"He's been a savior so far," Leyland said. "Obviously he's given us innings. Not only has he given us innings he's won games. That's a bonus, no question about it."

Marcus Thames had his stretch of consecutive games with a home run end at five, which tied a Tigers record. Still, his last eight hits have been homers.

Zito (2-11) saw the end to his three-game winning streak against the Tigers, picking up his first loss to Detroit since Aug. 7, 2003 - the year after his AL Cy Young Award season with the Oakland Athletics.

Zito still looks nothing like his old self.

Armando Galarraga improved to 7-2 and didn't allow an earned run in six innings, while striking out five. Armando Galarraga improved to 7-2 and didn't allow an earned run in six innings, while striking out five.

"He was all over the place," Thames said. "I've never seen him like that."

He has just one win in his last five starts and this was the second-shortest start of his career. He allowed five runs and five hits, struck out two and walked four.

As has been the case in most of his starts this year, Zito dug himself into a hole in the first inning. He allowed a one-out single to Polanco then walked Carlos Guillen before back-to-back RBI singles by Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera.

"It feels terrible to let the team down. That's the hard part," Zito said. "These guys bust their butts. There's a difference when it's 5-1 or if you're down by one or two. Momentum plays a big role and I take the blame."

Guillen followed Polanco's RBI double in the second with a two-run double to make it 5-0. Polanco also singled in a run in the fifth to help Detroit win its fourth straight series. The Tigers (34-38) are trying to pull back to .500.

"We're big boys," Leyland said. "We know we put ourselves in a hole. We're just playing the kind of baseball the fans expect from us. Expectations were high. We've never given up on anything. Just keep playing and whatever happens, happens. You can't make it up in one day."

With Billy Sadler already warming up in the second, Giants manager Bruce Bochy made a mound visit after Guillen's double. Zito stayed in and Bochy got booed on his way back to the dugout.

Zito's former pitching coach with the A's, Rick Peterson, is looking for work after the New York Mets fired him early Tuesday - and there is speculation the Giants might try to bring him aboard to guide their $126 million left-hander.

"When things don't go your way you can't get down," center fielder Aaron Rowand said. "You have to stay positive. Barry knows everybody in this room is behind him."

Detroit pushed another run across in the fourth after second baseman Travis Denker's throw to first on a double-play attempt was high and got past John Bowker for an error. The Giants fell to 1-8 this season against the American League.

The Giants, who have lost seven of eight at home, got on the board in the second when Denker doubled with one out and later came home on a wild pitch. San Francisco's other run came on an error in the sixth.

Polanco is batting .367 (72-for-196) with 31 runs scored, 15 doubles, two home runs and 21 RBIs over his last 47 games dating to April 25.

"We've got to keep playing like that - stay aggressive and patient at the same time," Guillen said. "We're playing better. It's a long season and a lot can happen in a long season. We know we have a good team."

NOTES: After the game, Detroit activated OF Clete Thomas from the disabled list and optioned OF Brent Clevlen to Triple-A Toledo. ... Galarraga, who had never previously faced any of the Giants' batters, is 5-1 in seven appearances and six starts on the road this year. ... Fred Lewis singled in the fifth for San Francisco to give him a career-best nine-game hitting streak. ... Giants RHP Merkin Valdez, sidelined with a strained elbow, liked the news he received from his visit with Angels orthopedist Dr. Lewis Yocum on Tuesday in Anaheim. There is no structural damage in the elbow, which is encouraging considering Valdez missed all of last year following Tommy John surgery. He still needs more rest and rehabilitation before being activated.

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