Tigers Inside Pitch: 8/23

The Tigers have been hot lately, but what's been even more impressive about their recent win streak? Plus, what may be in store for the first baseman that can just never seem to completely figure it out, but always leave observers thinking of so much more.

INSIDE PITCH
Detroit was not scheduled to play on Monday after finishing off a weekend sweep of the Blue Jays, but have Oakland coming in Tuesday for a three-game series before departing Comerica Park for a 10-game road trip.

LHP Nate Robertson is scheduled to open the series against the A's with RHP Jeremy Bonderman and LHP Mike Maroth to follow. RHP Jason Johnson and RHP Sean Douglass were to pitch the first two games of Detroit's trip, in Boston.

The Tigers pulled to within two games of .500 (60-62) with their sweep of Toronto.

NOTES, QUOTES
--1B Carlos Pena had two solo home runs and an RBI single in his first game for Detroit since May 27. He was sent to the minors at that time for lack of hitting and batted more than .300 for Toledo.

--RF Magglio Ordonez was a last-minute scratch from Friday's starting unit with flu-like symptoms but was back in the lineup Saturday.

--C Ivan Rodriguez returned to the starting lineup Friday, hitting in the third spot in the lineup. "It's tough," Rodriguez said of missing nine of Detroit's previous 10 games. "But when you're sore and you're hurt, it's hard to play like that. I was very bored sitting in the dugout and not being able to play, but I'm ready to play." Rodriguez said his left hip flexor still bothers him, but his groin is fine. The broken bone in his right hand still is a pain, and the jammed pinky finger on his left finger also remains a bother. "It helped, these days I didn't play," Rodriguez said. He showed the hip isn't too painful by hitting a home run.

--C Vance Wilson won't sit as much now that regular C Ivan Rodriguez is back in the lineup as he did earlier in the season, Manager Alan Trammell says. "For this last stretch of the season," Trammell said, "I would like to do a better job than I did the first 100 games. Try to keep him more regular as far as what a backup normally gets to play."

--LHP Mike Maroth reached a career high with his 11th victory Friday night, a 9-5 win over visiting Toronto.

--2B Placido Polanco is hotter than hot. Polanco had eight multi-hit contests in 11 games. He has been spraying the ball all over the field and has proved an effective leadoff hitter for the Tigers.

--RHP Craig Dingman has had a couple of lapses but overall is having a good season for Detroit. Dingman got the last out of Friday night's game, the only batter he faced. He earned a save because he came in with two runners on in a 9-5 game.

--OF Bobby Higginson, who has not played since having bone chips removed from his right elbow in May, is working out at the Tigers' spring training base at Lakeland, FL, in hopes of returning to Detroit in September. "We're certainly hopeful," Tigers trainer Kevin Rand said. "He's progressing and working through some of the soreness."

--SS Carlos Guillen was placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 11, with weakness in the quadriceps around his surgically repaired right knee. Guillen got a second opinion Tuesday from a New York doctor that confirmed the diagnosis of the Tigers' medical staff. "As he's been playing, sometimes he's had soreness, postgame fatigue," trainer Kevin Rand said. "It's difficult sometimes to keep it strong. It's not unusual. We're an everyday sport. If he had that same type of injury in another sport, he would have built-in off-days. We don't have that in baseball, so we have to find ways to keep it strong. We've got to get his strength back up again."

--RHP Jeremy Bonderman became the first Detroit pitcher to win 14 games since RHP Steve Sparks in 2001 when Detroit defeated Boston 6-5 Wednesday afternoon. Bonderman credited his teammates, noting he didn't have his best stuff. The only 1-2-3 inning Bonderman had was the first but he benefited from three of the five double plays Detroit turned in the game. He had lost three in a row prior to his Wednesday start.

--IF John McDonald is showing Detroit he has value as a utility player. McDonald, playing in place of disabled SS Carlos Guillen, laid down a suicide squeeze bunt Wednesday afternoon and even beat it out for a single. The run was Detroit's fifth in the first inning and the Tigers added one more, a Chris Shelton home run, that was vital in a one-run victory over Boston. McDonald's RBI single Monday capped a ninth-inning rally that gave Detroit a 7-6 win over Boston. He's a skilled defensive player, but this year he's become much more confident at the plate.

BY THE NUMBERS: 5 -- One-run victories by Detroit in a 7-1 run that brought the Tigers back to within two games of .500 entering a series that began Tuesday against Oakland.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "It was just good to feel baseball the way baseball is supposed to be felt. They have a special thing going on there, there's no doubt about it. It was a lot of fun to be a part of it. It was a lot of fun the way the team went about playing the game as a whole. I couldn't have had a better situation as far as, if you had to go down, go work on some stuff and play baseball at Triple-A." -- 1B Carlos Pena on his two-plus months in the minors with the Toledo Mud Hens. Pena went down hitting .181, hit .300, and returned to Detroit to hit three home runs in his first three games back in the majors.


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