PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Jim Leyland would never say so publicly, but
he let his players know what's on his mind: He is back at home in
Pittsburgh, and the Detroit Tigers had better not lose there.
Curtis Granderson singled and scored to start the third, then
protected a one-run lead by making an excellent leaping catch of
Ronny Paulino's line drive into the left-center gap to end the
eighth with the potential tying run on third.
Granderson works daily with a former Gold Glove outfielder who
has made numerous exceptional catches in Pittsburgh for Leyland,
Tigers coach Andy Van Slyke. As Granderson said, "It's starting to
turn into some good stuff."
"I was kind of excited when he caught that ball," said
reliever Joel Zumaya, who rooms with Granderson on the road. "I
owe him a steak dinner."
Leyland doesn't have to go far for his home cooking while
managing in PNC Park for the first time against the team that gave
him his first big league managerial job in 1986.
Leyland's house is crowded by friends and family members, and he
said, "It's great when it's happening, but I'll be glad when it's
"Leyland, we wanted to win for him," Zumaya said. "He kind of
busted on us, saying, `Hey we're going back to my old place, we'd
better kick their rear ends.' It was a little tough, we were a
little shaky, but we came out victorious."
Leyland drew nearly all cheers during the pregame introductions,
but joked, "Some of the people booing me were the ones I left
The Tigers are playing well no matter the locale, winning seven
in a row and 13 in 14 games to match the same 80-game record of one
of the best teams in club history. They are 30 games above .500 at
55-25, the same record as the 1984 World Series championship team
that started 35-5.
That they are thriving following five successive seasons of 90
or more losses, and with the manager who wanted to return as
Pittsburgh's skipper last fall but was passed over for Jim Tracy,
only makes it worse for the Pirates. They have lost 15 of 17 to
fall to 27 games under .500.
The Pirates are on pace for a 14th consecutive losing season
and, in a quirky twist, each of the three full-season managers
during that streak were on the Tigers' bench: Leyland (1986-96) and
coaches Gene Lamont (1997-2000) and Lloyd McClendon (2001-05).
Worse still for the Pirates: Chris Shelton homered against the
club that gave him away in the Rule 5 draft three years ago,
following Marcus Thames' two-run shot in the second against Kip
Wells with his 15th homer.
"He's been struggling a little bit, but the ball was flying -- I
didn't think at first it was going to go out," Leyland said.
The Pirates inexplicably left Shelton unprotected in a draft in
which they drew laughter from baseball executives at the 2003
winter meetings by having five of the first six players drafted.
Wells (0-3), the major league leader with 18 losses last season,
made a third consecutive poor start since missing the first 2½
months of the season following surgery to repair a blocked artery.
He was roughed up for seven runs and six hits in 2 1-3 innings,
allowing two homers, a triple, hitting a batter and throwing one of
three Pirates wild pitches.
Wells, who has long baffled the Pirates with his inability to
win despite having possessing excellent talent, frustrated them
again during his 21st loss in 29 decisions the last two seasons. He
was ahead in the count to both Thames (0-and-2) and Shelton
(0-and-1) only to leave hittable pitches over the plate.
"He was missing with his pitches," Tracy said. "He'd get
ahead of the count, get guys to two strikes but couldn't finish
them off. He couldn't locate his pitches."
The Tigers gave Rogers a six-run lead, but he was lifted during
a three-run Pirates fifth keyed by Sean Casey's two-run triple and
didn't last long enough to get the victory. Roman Colon (1-0)
pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings for the decision. Zumaya's throwing
error on what looked to be an inning-ending Mike Edwards grounder
in the eighth led to Jose Hernandez's RBI triple, just ahead of the
Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 21st save in 24
opportunities. The Pirates put runners on first and second but
Jones got Bay to ground out to end the game -- the second time in
three nights Bay made the final out with the tying run on base.
Thames' homer was his 16th and came after Magglio Ordonez's
leadoff single. ... Wells has a 14.34 ERA. ... Pittsburgh is 2-11
against the AL, Detroit is 14-2 against the NL. ... The Pirates
lead the majors with 23 one-run losses. They are 8-23 in one-run
games. ... Pirates 3B Freddy Sanchez, the NL's top hitter with a
.363 average going into the night, sat out with back spasms.