Tigers hang on despite another wild seventh vs. Pirates

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers did everything they could
to give away a game they already had won. The Pittsburgh Pirates
almost figured out how to win a game that seemed lost.

But when it came down to a ground ball that deflected off
pitcher Todd Jones' glove, with the winner determined by which way
it bounced, the Tigers showed why they have the majors' best
record. And the Pirates again displayed why they have the NL's
worst record.

Chris Shelton hit one of Detroit's two tape-measure home runs
against the team that gave him away and the Tigers bounced back
from one of their few ugly losses this season, holding on to beat
the Pirates 9-8 Sunday.

"We were this close," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said, holding
two fingers about an inch apart. "This close."

Shelton, Carlos Guillen and Craig Monroe drove in two runs each
to help the Tigers open a 9-2 lead and take two of three from
Pittsburgh, their seventh consecutive series win. They were coming
off a 9-2 loss Saturday in which they committed errors on three
consecutive infield plays during a seven-run Pirates seventh.

The Pirates lost for the 15th time in 17 games, while the Tigers
won their 14th in 16.

"But, to be honest, I was concerned we might come in here and
not win a game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "A team like
that, they're going to get their share eventually and I didn't want
it to be this weekend. This could have a tremendous sting right
here this weekend."

The seventh inning Sunday was even wilder than Saturday's with
the Tigers scoring five runs against Pittsburgh's usually reliable
bullpen before the Pirates came back with six runs to get within a

"After we jumped out 9-2, a lot of teams would have shut it
down but they didn't," the Tigers' Vance Wilson said.

Todd Jones finished up by pitching the ninth for his 22nd save
in 25 opportunities, but not without a big scare. Pittsburgh loaded
the bases with one out on Jason Bay's double and two walks, with
Leyland ordering Freddy Sanchez be intentionally walked to put the
potential winning run on base.

But Jose Castillo struck out and Humberto Cota grounded out on a
ball that deflected off Jones' glove directly to second baseman
Placido Polanco. If the ball had veered by even a foot, the Pirates
likely would have scored twice and won.

"The ball wasn't too far from me," said Polanco, who was
relieved the ball was deflected. "For sure, it made it an easier
play. If that ball goes up the middle, you don't know if Carlos
[Guillen, the shortstop] is going to be there."

Monroe's two-run double against Jonah Bayliss keyed the Tigers'
seventh, which marked the only time in the series the Tigers scored
past the fifth inning. Pinch-hitter Omar Infante started the
seventh with the first of three Detroit doubles in the inning and
Wilson added an RBI double three batters later against reliever
John Grabow.

In bottom of the inning, the Pirates had runners on third and
first with six runs already in before Castillo hit into an
inning-ending double play. Before that, they turned a hit batter,
two singles, a walk, reliever Fernando Rodney's run-scoring wild
pitch and shortstop Guillen's error on a Sean Casey grounder into
three runs ahead of Sanchez's second two-run double in as many
innings. Pinch-hitter Ronny Paulino followed with a run-scoring

"We got a little careless, which you can't let happen,"
Leyland said.

Despite another seventh-inning letdown, the Tigers quickly
proved there would be no carryover effect from Saturday's loss by
jumping on Pirates starter Ian Snell (7-6) for three runs in the
first. Guillen's two-run homer over the right field stands followed
Magglio Ordonez's run-scoring double.

Guillen's drive, his 10th, was estimated at 449 feet, but was
topped when Shelton led off the second with a 459-foot shot off the
center field batter's backdrop. Shelton's homer was his 16th and
second of the series against the team that failed to protect him
for the Rule 5 draft at the 2003 winter meetings. Shelton had five
hits and four RBI in the series.

The final score didn't indicate how well Tigers rookie starter
Zach Miner (5-1) pitched in winning his fifth in a row. He retired
the first 11 batters and didn't give up a hit until Sanchez singled
leading off the fifth. Sanchez's 13-game hitting streak ended
Saturday, but he came back with three hits Sunday to jump his
average to .363.

Miner lasted 5 2/3 innings, giving up two runs and six hits.
Snell, losing his third in a row after winning five straight by
allowing four runs and seven hits in five innings.

Game notes
The Tigers finished 15-3 against the NL, easily their best
record since interleague play began in 1997. The Pirates went 3-12
against the AL after going 5-7 last year. ... The Pirates' Jose
Hernandez, making a spot start at shortstop, left after four
innings with tightness in his lower back. ... Tigers starting
pitchers are 16-2 over the last month. ... The Pirates are 8-24 and
the Tigers are 14-8 in one-run games.