Tigers 5, Padres 3
SAN DIEGO (AP)—The Detroit Tigers are finally looking down on someone in the standings.
The San Diego Padres replaced Detroit as the worst team in baseball Wednesday night, when the Tigers handed off the dubious distinction in person.
Reliever Steve Avery had a pinch-hit single and scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and the Tigers beat the Padres for the second straight night, 5-3.
Detroit (16-40) moved ahead of San Diego (17-43) by three percentage points.
“We’re well aware of that,” Padres manager Bruce Bochy said. “That’s what happens when you play like we have. We’ve been leaving too many great opportunities. That’s why we’re at where we’re at.”
Detroit became the first major league team to have consecutive 0-9 starts, and was 1-17 and 3-25. The Padres have been in a free-fall since late April, losing 30 of 37 games.
“Honestly, I’m not looking at that,” Detroit manager Alan Trammell said of shedding baseball’s worst record. “We’re just playing better baseball. That’s what we have to worry about. We still have a long way to go.
“I’d rather catch Cleveland,” he said, referring to the fourth-place team in the AL Central.
Dmitri Young homered for the second straight night, a solo shot with two outs in the eighth off Jesse Orosco that gave the Tigers a 5-3 lead. Young hit a go-ahead, three-run homer in the Tigers’ 3-2 win Tuesday night.
With the score tied at 3, Avery hit for reliever Wilfredo Ledezma (1-2) leading off the seventh and singled to left off Luther Hackman (1-1). He took second when Rondell White bobbled the ball, then came around to score on Shane Halter’s single to center. The throw from Gary Matthews Jr. beat Avery to the plate, but catcher Gary Bennett dropped the ball.
Avery, who pitched for Atlanta for seven seasons, came in with a .172 career average. Bench coach Kirk Gibson suggested that Avery hit, and he didn’t even get to finish warming up in the bullpen.
“To be honest, I was thinking, `Well, I can hit a home run here and be a hero.’ But then I got two strikes and I was just trying to put it in play,” Avery said. “I just got lucky, snuck it down the line.
“It’s been four years since I’ve been in the box, so it was a little bit uncomfortable.”
Catcher Matt Walbeck put his helmet on Avery’s head and handed him one of his bats.
“I didn’t realize Wally’s helmet was too big until I started running and it was hanging in my eyes,” Avery said.
The Tigers purchased Avery’s contract from Triple-A Toledo on May 9, bringing him back to the majors for the first time since 1999. He had left shoulder surgery in 1999, pitched in the minors in 2000 and missed the next two seasons.
Avery stayed in to pitch and dodged a San Diego threat in the seventh. Padres pitcher Adam Eaton had a pinch-hit double that moved Sean Burroughs from first to third with one out, but Bennett grounded out and Lou Merloni flied out.
Franklyn German pitched the ninth for his fifth save in six chances.
San Diego right-hander Brian Tollberg was trying for his first win since reconstructive elbow surgery a year ago. He went into the sixth with a 3-1 lead, which the Padres promptly blew.
Tollberg allowed a leadoff double to Halter, who entered during a double switch in the fifth, and was replaced by Mike Matthews. Alex Sanchez beat out a bunt for single and stole second before Bobby Higginson hit a sacrifice fly to score Halter.
Sanchez scored the tying run when first baseman Ryan Klesko was handcuffed by pinch-hitter Craig Monroe’s grounder. Klesko recovered and probably could have gotten Monroe at first, but he tried to get Sanchez and his throw was late.
“This whole season has been crazy,” Klesko said. “There’s been weird stuff, man. We just have to forget about it and go after them.”
Kevin Witt homered off Tollberg on an 0-2 pitch leading off the fifth, his third.
The Padres had gone ahead 2-0 on Sean Burroughs’ one-out double in the firstafter Gary Knotts walked the bases full.
Joe Niekro was the last Tigers pitcher to get a pinch hit, on Sept. 2, 1970. … Rod Beck made his first appearance since 2001. Beck, coming back from elbow surgery pitched one-third of an inning. … The Padres plan to activate CF Mark Kotsay from the 15-day disabled list before Thursday’s game. He’s been out since May 19 with a sprained lower back.