Best news for Tigers? Bonderman


CLEVELAND There is good news for Tigers fans. Jeremy Bonderman can still pitch and Curtis Granderson can still catch.

Well, really, there was no question about the latter. But just when you think you ve seen it all

And there is a modicum of good news for Indians fans.

Grady Sizemore can hit from the No. 3 spot, too. His two-run homer in the bottom of the first inning last night made Cleveland manager Eric Wedge look like a genius for cooking up a rather dramatic lineup change.

But Bonderman, who had been torched in four straight outings, followed with six shutout innings and Granderson saved Detroit s bacon with a remarkable, diving catch with two outs in the bottom of the eighth to preserve a 2-2 tie.

Fernando Rodney allowed a leadoff double in the ninth and then struck out three straight.

Inspired, the Tigers hitters put up a 4-spot in the 10th inning. Gary Sheffield broke the tie with a run-scoring single and Magglio Ordonez followed on the next pitch with a 387-foot blast deep into the bleachers in left for a three-run homer and a 6-2 win.

The Detroit bats were booming at the end, but it was Bonderman who gave the Tigers their biggest lift of the night. The righty was a dominating 10-1 at one point of the season, but had lost his last four starts while giving up 29 runs and 34 hits in 22-plus innings. He was a gas can and a match wrapped into one.

Last night, he made only one bad mistake. It came early, as usual, and Sizemore s homer figured to spark an Indian team mired in a gruesome run-scoring slump.

Instead it was more of the same for Cleveland, where the over-under the last 20 games or so has been 2. Sizemore had that home run and an infield single and his teammates added a total of four more hits. The beat goes on as the Indians fell to 6-14 at Jacobs Field since the All-Star break.

I m excited the way Bonderman pitched, said Tigers manager Jim Leyland.

I thought he was real good. He competed, as always. But his stuff was tremendous. He needed one like that.

So did the Tigers.

For two days, at least, it will be impossible for Detroit and the Indians to simply match one another. In 17 of the last 28 days, the teams have either both won or both lost.

It looked as if the Tribe would own the upper hand after Sizemore s two-run blast in the first.

Shifting him to the No. 3 spot in the order was no small deal. The last time Sizemore was not at the top of the lineup was May 14, 2005.

In the 406 games since, including the last 314 in a row prior to last night, Sizemore was hitting .286 with 66 home runs and 208 runs batted in.

Hoping to transfer that production to the middle of the order, Wedge figured it was the right time to shake things up, considering the stretch we re in right now.

Alas, there was no happy ending for Wedge, who had two men on with two outs in the bottom of the eighth when Travis Hafner sliced a line drive to left-center that seemed destined to clear the bases and snap the 2-2 tie. Granderson makes a lot of tough catches look routine, but nobody could believe he got to this ball.

Man, said Leyland. It was a huge, huge catch.

You win games because of plays like that.