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Patterson gets save

4/15/2004

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers are off to a historic start one season after being one of the worst teams in baseball history.

Carlos Pena hit a two-run double in a four-run first inning, and
Detroit held on to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-3 Wednesday night.

The Tigers have won six of their first eight games, one season
after beginning 0-9 and finishing with an AL-record 119 losses.

They are off to the best eight-game start of any team coming off
a 110-loss season since 1900, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
There are just 14 teams to achieve the dubious feat.

"This is fun," Craig Monroe said. "We believe we have a
chance to win every day. When I wake up, I can't wait to get out to
the yard."

Detroit has scored at least five runs in each of its opening
eight games for the first time, eclipsing the six in a row at the
start of the 1961 season.

And the Tigers, off to their best start since 1985, have scored
23 of their 51 runs with two outs.

"You don't feel like you have to go out there and throw a
shutout," said Nate Robertson, who earned the win. "I have all
the confidence in the world in the offense we have."

Rondell White, one of several newcomers along with Ivan Rodriguez, set his sights on the AL Central title in March.

Some laughed, but he's still smiling.

"It's great because we've got respect and a lot of people have
to shut up now," White said. "We've got everything we need to
win. There's no easy outs in our lineup, our pitching has been
great and our defense has been unbelievable.

"We've still got a long way to go this season, but we really
feel like we can win the Central."

Toronto manager Carlos Tosca, who has seen Detroit beat his team
four times, is impressed with the new-look Tigers put together by
general manager Dave Dombrowski.

"There're a much-improved team and it's all about having
players," he said. "Dave Dombrowski brought in players who not
only are good, but they're winning players."

After the Tigers took an early 4-0 lead, they had to hold on for
the win.

Vernon Wells singled off Esteban Yan and scored on an error as
Toronto closed within two runs in the eighth. Jamie Walker relieved
and gave up a single and a wild pitch before getting out of the
inning by striking out Kevin Cash and getting Orlando Hudson to
ground out.

Danny Patterson pitched the ninth for his first save. Toronto
threatened in the ninth, getting singles from pinch-hitter Greg Myers and Frank Catalanotto before Wells grounded into a
game-ending double play.

Robertson (1-0) gave up two runs and three hits over five
innings in his first start of the season, the 10th of his career.
He struck out seven and walked three. The 26-year-old left-hander
pitched 10-plus scoreless innings before Reed Johnson's two-run
homer in the fifth.

"He's very determined to prove he can pitch at this level,"
Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. "And so far, so good."

Robertson started in place of Nate Cornejo, suspended by the
commissioner's office for intentionally hitting Philadelphia's
Ricky Ledee with a pitch during spring training.

Ted Lilly (0-1) gave up four runs and five hits in five innings.
Lilly, who struck out four and walked three, settled down after the
Tigers roughed him up in the first.

With the bases loaded, Monroe hit a sacrifice fly to the warning
track. Pena followed with a double off the wall, and Bobby Higginson hit an RBI single.

Lilly retired the side the next three innings before giving up
two hits in the fifth. With two on and two outs, third baseman Eric Hinske made a diving stop and throw to get Lilly out of the jam.

"I'm not at all happy about anything I did," Lilly said.

Higginson's sacrifice fly off Valerio De Los Santos in the sixth
put the Tigers ahead 5-2 after Pena hit a leadoff triple.

Game notes

The game drew 15,129 fans one day after the smallest crowd
(8,804) in Comerica Park's five-year history showed up on a chilly
night. ... On April 6, Robertson earned his first save after
striking out seven Blue Jays over four scoreless innings. He may
end up being Detroit's No. 5 starter, but Trammell would only say
he'll pitch Monday at Cleveland. ... Lilly gave up four runs on
five hits over 5 1-3 innings in his first start, a loss at Boston.
He signed a $5 million, two-year deal in January.