DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers have endured some rough times since their last winning season in 1993, including their AL-record 119-loss season two years ago.
That's why Brandon Inge didn't hesitate to celebrate their relatively significant victory Friday night.Ivan Rodriguez homered and hit a tiebreaking double and Jason Johnson pitched into the ninth inning to lead the Tigers past the Baltimore Orioles 5-3.The Tigers (26-26) have won six of seven -- including a three-game sweep last weekend at Baltimore -- to reach .500 this late in the season for the first time since Sept. 8, 2000."I've been here since 2001 and I've never been close," said Inge, who had an RBI single in a four-run seventh. "I've been through more downs than ups. To be right at .500, being able to knock on the door with a respectable record, is something I've never been through here. I'm very happy."If we can just keep rolling with this, anything is possible," he said.Detroit is 5-1 against the AL-East leading Orioles, handing them nearly one-fourth of their losses a season after going 0-6 against them."They're a good team," Baltimore manager Lee Mazzilli said. "They've been giving us trouble."Johnson (4-4) gave up three runs -- one earned -- and six hits in eight-plus innings, striking out six and walking one. He was pulled with two on and strolled off the mound to a standing ovation from the crowd of 30,784.He has pitched at least eight innings in five straight starts, becoming the first Detroit pitcher to do that since Jeff Robinson in 1988.Johnson improved to 3-1 in six career starts against Baltimore, where he played from 1999 to 2003."He enjoys pitching against Baltimore, and I don't care what the reason is," Detroit manager Alan Trammell said.Kyle Farnsworth got three outs for his first save since 2002 with the Cubs. He gave up a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to Rafael Palmeiro that was caught at the wall by left fielder Rondell White."When I hit it, I thought it had a chance and I thought [White] might not get to it, but he made a good play," Palmeiro said.Jay Gibbons' RBI single cut it to 5-3 before Farnsworth struck out Chris Gomez with runners at the corners to end it."I definitely wanted the complete game, but I'm glad Farnsworth came in and helped me out," Johnson said.Baltimore's Bruce Chen (5-3) allowed three runs and five hits while striking out four in 6 1/3 innings."I thought he was outstanding," Mazzilli said. "We just didn't get any runs for him."Chen was relieved by Todd Williams, who gave up two runs on three hits and a walk and was chased after retiring just one
batter."Chen did a great job -- he was killing us," Inge said. "When he got out of the game, I was pleased."White's one-out single in the seventh extended his career-best hitting streak to 19 games and started Detroit's four-run rally. He scored on Rodriguez's RBI double. Recent call-ups Chris Shelton and Tony Giarratano followed with RBI singles, and Inge's run-scoring single put the Tigers ahead 5-1.The Orioles got off to a decent start against Johnson before he shut them down.David Newhan hit a two-out single in the third, advanced two bases on Johnson's wild throw to first on a pickoff move and scored on Melvin Mora's perfect bunt down the third-base line.Rodriguez made it 1-1 in the fifth inning with his fourth homer of the season and first in a month. The All-Star catcher has stayed in the lineup despite breaking his right hand Tuesday."This guy is a warrior," Trammell said. "He's the face of the Tigers and he puts the weight on his shoulders."
Baltimore second baseman Brian Roberts, hitting an AL-best .368, could return to the lineup as soon as Monday after injuring his shoulder earlier this week. He had an MRI exam Friday in Baltimore. ... Detroit closer Troy Percival took a step toward coming back from a forearm injury by throwing a simulated game. ... Orioles left-hander Erik Bedard, on the DL with a sprained left knee, had an MRI exam on Friday and could return soon. ... Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen, resting his right knee, might be in the lineup Saturday. ... The Orioles have been alone atop their division since April 23. ... Detroit's Craig Monroe hit a triple, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. ... White's hitting streak is Detroit's longest in five years. ... Baltimore's B.J. Surhoff had two hits, extending his hitting streak to eight games.