Nationals 6

(5-1, 2-1 away)

Tigers 5

(3-1, 2-1 home)

    1:05 PM ET, March 7, 2005

    Joker Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, Florida 

    123456789 R H E
    WAS 001100301 6 - -
    DET 102002000 5 - -

    Washington 6, Detroit 5

    LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) -- Dean Palmer walked off the field with a smile after hitting a home run he favorably compared to any of his 275 major league homers.

    Palmer, attempting a comeback after retiring last year because of neck and shoulder injuries, hasn't played a full season since 2000.

    His two-run homer gave the Detroit Tigers a three-run lead in the sixth inning before the Washington Nationals rallied for a 6-5 victory Monday.

    Palmer popped out and struck out in his first two at-bats before hitting a home run over the left-field wall off Sun-woo Kim. Palmer was shocked to make such solid contact after his struggles earlier in the game.

    "That homer gives me a lot of confidence," the non-roster invitee said. "If I (struck out) it would've been tough on me."

    Palmer made his first start at third base and threw to second to start a double play, the only opportunity he had in the field.

    Washington's Tony Blanco tied the game with a sacrifice fly in a three-run seventh and hit a game-winning double in the ninth. The Nationals have come from behind to win each of their four exhibitions, and the Tigers lost for the first time this spring.

    Tony Armas Jr. had a lackluster start for the Nationals after pitching two scoreless innings in their opener last week.

    Armas allowed three runs on five hits and two walks while striking out two over three innings. He was 2-4 with a 4.88 ERA last season, his first after shoulder surgery, and his career record is 32-41.

    "I don't want to put too much pressure on him, but if he wins 12, 13, 14 or 15 games, that would be outstanding," Nationals manager Frank Robinson said.

    Armas said his goals don't include a certain number of wins.

    "I just want to feel like I am right now," he said. "I just want to be healthy."

    The Tigers have a healthy competition in left field where Craig Monroe, Rondell White and Bobby Higginson are vying for the starting job.

    Higginson hit a solo homer in the third off Armas and White went 2-for-3, improving to 7-for-10 this spring. Monroe, who didn't play Monday, is 2-for-5 this spring.

    "I just want the decision for them to be a tough one," Higginson said.

    Though many have speculated at least one of the three will be moved before the season, Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said Monday he doesn't expect much of a shakeup.

    "I don't anticipate making a major deal," Dombrowski said.

    Tigers owner Mike Ilitch said he didn't think Higginson would be released, as some have predicted. Higginson, making $8.85 million this season, is in the final year of his contract.

    Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman gave up one run on one hit and three walks while striking out three over three innings.

    "There were some positives because I got out of some jams," he said. "But there were some negatives because some walks got me into those jams."

    The Nationals made their first round of cuts, sending 11 players to their minor league camp, leaving 49 on their roster.

    "This is probably the earliest I've ever had a roster trimmed down in spring training," Robinson said. "What's good about it is, it allows me to zero in a little bit more on the players we have."

    Game notes

    Tigers manager Alan Trammell expects Magglio Ordonez to make his Detroit debut this week as a designated hitter. .... J.J. Davis hit a solo homer on 1-2 count with two outs in the fourth off Tigers closer Troy Percival. ... Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez was 2-for-3 with a double and scored a run. ... Washington LHP Bill Bray, a 2004 first-round pick, was among the players sent to minor league camp Monday.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press