DETROIT (AP) -- Ivan Rodriguez tried to treat Friday as just
another day at the ballpark.
But his first game against the team he led to a World Series
title only months ago was always going to be more than that.
"This was a special night," said Rodriguez, who homered and
went 2-for-4 in the Detroit Tigers' 8-4 victory over the Florida
Marlins. "I had a lot of fun."
The 10-time All-Star catcher signed a $40 million, four-year
contract with Detroit in the offseason -- and he's a big reason the
Tigers have improved so quickly after losing an AL-record 119 games
At 28-32, they are a game ahead of Florida's 60-game pace last
"When I meet with my teammates, I keep reminding them of
that," Rodriguez said. "We struggled last year in Florida, and we
ended up winning the World Series. There's a lot of talent on this
team -- I keep telling them."
Before the game, he spent much of batting practice chatting with
his former teammates.
"That was really nice," Rodriguez said. "I was glad to get to
Gary Knotts (4-1), another former Marlin, got the win. He
allowed four runs on five hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings,
helping Detroit improve to 3-1 in interleague play.
"I was just trying to treat it as another game," Knotts said.
"We've got a nice little run here and I just wanted to keep it
Former Tigers farmhand Tommy Phelps (1-1) took the loss, giving
up six runs and six in three-plus innings.
"I felt better tonight than I have in some of my other
starts," he said. "But I made two mistakes and they got hit. I
left a pitch up to (Carlos) Pena in the third, and he got a triple,
and I put a changeup right down the middle to Dmitri."
Detroit took a 1-0 lead on Omar Infante's sacrifice fly in the
third, then scored six times in the fourth.
The first five batters of the inning scored on homers by Young
and Guillen, who set a career high with his 10th of the season.
Michael Neu replaced Phelps and got the first out of the inning,
but Eric Munson singled and scored on Infante's triple to make it
Knotts was perfect through four innings, but Miguel Cabrera led
off the fifth with an infield single and moved up when Hee Seop
Choi walked. Former Tiger Damion Easley followed with an RBI
single, and Lenny Harris' groundout drove in another run.
Cabrera led off the seventh with his 16th homer, and Harris
added an RBI double to pull Florida to 7-4 and chase Knotts.
"We got some nice hitting late in the game, but then it was too
late," Florida manager Jack McKeon said. "We can't keep going
through five or six innings with only two hits. That makes it too
hard to come from behind."
Rodriguez led off the bottom of the seventh with a long homer to
left, his eighth of the year.
"Mr. Rodriguez is a special player, and we could spend an hour
saying good things about him," Tigers manager Alan Trammell said.
Young hadn't homered since Sept. 26. He's been limited to
10 games this season because of a broken leg. ... The game drew
27,184 fans. ... Detroit Pistons guard Mike James attended the game
as a guest of Tigers OF Rondell White, who was one of many Tigers
to attend Game 3 of the NBA Finals on Thursday. ... Easley, cut by
Detroit before last season with two years left on his contract, is
still the fourth highest-paid player on their payroll behind Bobby
Higginson, Young and Rodriguez.