DENIS POROY / AP Enlarge
SAN DIEGO Marcus Thames probably needed to pause and take a deep breath Saturday night.
After all, it's not every day a player gets to meet three greats of the game and hit a winning home run.
Thames did just that, capping his action-packed day with a two-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning that lifted Nate Robertson and the Detroit Tigers a 7-5 win over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.
Earlier, he and teammate Curtis Granderson attended a Salute to the Negro Leagues luncheon. He met Willie Mays, Dave Winfield and Don Newcombe, and had each of them autograph a baseball.
"I really, really wanted to meet those guys," Thames said. "It was a really, really good day. I was like a little kid. I mean, we took a picture with the guys and they were like, 'You guys can stand up,' and I said, 'No, I'll sit down in front.' So me and Curtis sat down on the floor in front of them and took a picture."
Thames was still pumped up several hours later when he drove an 0-1 pitch from Justin Hampson to left-center for a 7-5 lead. It was his 14th of the season.
Thames didn't start because manager Jim Leyland wanted to give Clete Thomas some at-bats. It turned out that both Thomas and Thames hit in the seventh.
Thomas hit a leadoff double and Brandon Inge sacrificed. Jeff Larish, the first of two straight pinch-hitters, hit a tying single to chase starter Cha Seung Baek.
Hampson came on and gave up Thames' homer.
"I hit that ball good and I busted my butt around the bases because you never know," Thames said. "I just kept running."
Thames was hitting just .188 against lefties coming in.
"If Justin executes his pitches down, that's the place where you have to attack him," Padres manager Bud Black said.
Instead, Hampson threw a changeup "that was meant to be down and away," Black said. "He just got it up in the zone."
Thames "has just been on a roll," Leyland said. "It's unbelievable, really. It's hard to explain."
The Tigers, who won for the ninth time in 11 games, also got a two-run home run by Magglio Ordonez, whose fly ball to deep center bounced off Jody Gerut's glove and over the fence in the third inning.
Ordonez ended the eighth by throwing out Khalil Greene trying to score from second base on Michael Barrett's single to right. Ordonez fielded the ball on one bounce and his one-hop throw to catcher Brandon Inge was in time to get Greene.
Robertson (6-6) won his third straight start and for the fifth time in six starts. He allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings, struck out five and walked two. Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 13th save in as many chances.
Baek (1-3) matched his career strikeout high with seven but took the loss after failing to hold the 5-4 lead he took into the seventh.
It was the second time in the game that the Tigers took the lead on a homer. In the third, Ordonez's two-out homer gave Detroit a 4-3 lead. Gerut made a leaping attempt at the fence, but appeared to close his glove too soon and the ball bounced over. It was Ordonez's 11th homer, and Carlos Guillen was aboard on a single.
"If you give me 1,000 tries, I don't think I could do that again," Gerut said. "Tough bounce. I thought it was in the ballpark."
With one out, Curtis Granderson singled and advanced to third on a two-base throwing error by rookie Chase Headley, filling in for injured third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff. Granderson scored on Placido Polanco's sacrifice fly.
Barrett hit a two-run homer to highlight the three-run second. It was his second. Edgar Gonzalez hit a two-run double in the fifth.
Baek allowed six runs and eight hits in 6 1-3 innings.<
Notes:@ The Tigers are 11-1 this season when Thames homers, and 50-19 since 2004. ... Gerut had three hits. ... Headley, called up Tuesday to play left field, showed a strong arm at third. ... Padres RF Brian Giles probably will be out until Tuesday with a sore right hamstring. ... Kouzmanoff missed his fifth straight game with an irritated disc in his lower back. He said he'll try to play on Tuesday when the Padres open a home series against the Minnesota Twins. He hit in the indoor batting cage before Saturday night's game. He did report some progress: "Hey, look, I can bend over," he said as he put his uniform on. ... The promotions department gave Kouzmanoff a box of about 30 "Kouz Koozies," which were the giveaway item on Friday night. "I don't think a White Russian glass will fit in there, though," Kouzmanoff said. Although he's been nicknamed "The Crushin' Russian," Kouzmanoff is of Macedonian descent.