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Published: Monday, 7/28/2008

Still in race; Leyland wary of Indians

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT While much attention was paid yesterday to the Tigers massive bullpen shakeup, lost in the commotion was a much needed triumph.

Detroit s 6-4 victory over the White Sox trimmed Chicago s lead in the American League Central to 2 games over Minnesota and 6 over the Tigers.

The Tigers have much to be concerned about with Todd Jones struggles and Joel Zumaya s injury, but at least they re closer to the Sox than they were on Saturday night.

There s plenty of baseball left and we re still involved. Seriously involved, Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. If you re picking somebody right now do you take the White Sox? Absolutely, yes. But there s still a lot of baseball to play.

It starts getting pretty hairy around Aug. 1 if you re back like we are. If you re closer to it, it doesn t really get hairy until almost September.

The Tigers will be in Cleveland tonight for the start of a four-game series all of which will be played in the final four days leading up to the nonwaiver trade deadline Thursday.

The Indians have already dealt CC Sabathia and Casey Blake, and could be looking to move Paul Byrd or Jamey Carroll. A dark-horse candidate to be moved is Jhonny Peralta.

In the meantime, Cleveland is giving younger players a chance to perform.

Hungry guys trying to prove themselves, they re dangerous, Leyland said. You d be surprised the number of players who get an opportunity and end up doing pretty good.

GOOD STUFF: Curtis Granderson and Marcus Thames each homered off White Sox starter Javier Vazquez yesterday.

Thames blast was his 20th this year. The Tigers are 16-2 when he homers.

Granderson is batting .361 with eight doubles, four triples, three homers, and 11 RBIs in his last 32 contests.

Pudge Rodriguez went 4-for-4 with a double and is batting .390 in his last 30 games.

KEY MATCHUP: Tigers ace pitcher Justin Verlander is scheduled to face Fausto Carmona Thursday in the finale between Detroit and Cleveland.

This is no easy task for Verlander, as he s 4-7 lifetime against the Tribe with a 6.14 ERA.

WILLIS UPDATE: Dontrelle Willis started for Single-A Lakeland Saturday night and allowed three runs on four hits with three walks in 41/3 innings.

I guess he was actually OK, Leyland said. I know he walked three guys but he wasn t way all over the place. I think the comment was the changeup was not good.

Willis, who was supposed to be the Tigers No. 5 starter but an injury and an inability to throw strikes cost him that opportunity. He was demoted to Single-A in June and has walked six in 91/3 innings at Lakeland.



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