DETROIT (AP)—Less than two years after hitting one of baseball’s most dramatic homers, Aaron Boone can still enjoy helping his team win on a routine April night.
Back from a one-year layoff caused by a knee injury, Boone hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off Ugueth Urbina in the eighth inning Friday night, leading the Cleveland Indians over the Detroit Tigers 4-3.
“Being in here and shaking hands with the music playing is what it is all about,” Boone said. “It’s especially nice when you have a hand in the win.”
Boone is best known for his pennant-winning homer off Boston’s Tim Wakefield in Game 7 of the 2003 AL championship series, and he also homered for the Yankees in Game 3 of that year’s World Series.
But a knee injury sustained in a pickup basketball game caused him to miss 2004 and led the Yankees to release him. He signed with the Indians last June, but wasn’t able to make his Cleveland debut until this week.
He was 1-for-16 before his homer off Urbina.
“I knew I was going to be able to contribute to our offense,” Boone said. “I wasn’t even worried about the slow start. To be honest, I always start like this.”
Urbina (0-1) relieved at the start of the eighth and allowed Travis Hafner’s one-out single. Boone then homered into the bullpen in left.
“Boonie really got that one,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “It was a big hit for us and a big hit for him.”
David Riske (1-0) struck out pinch-hitter Carlos Guillen, forced in a run by walking Omar Infante on a 3-2 pitch, then started Bobby Higginson out with three balls. Higginson took a strike, then flied out.
“That was a warrior performance by David,” Wedge said. “We didn’t play very well behind him, but he got through it.”
Higginson, who has been booed by Tigers fans throughout the season-opening homestand, drew chants of “Bob-by! Bob-by!” as he worked the count to 3-0, but was jeered again after the harmless fly ball.
“It wasn’t the best pitch to swing at,” Higginson said. “It kind of started in, and then ran off to the corner. Even if it been called a strike, I would have had another pitch to work with.”
Bob Wickman pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his first save, two days after blowing a three-run lead at Chicago.
“There’s been a lot on my mind the last couple days, because I had never blown a three-run lead in my life before Wednesday,” he said. “This felt good.”
Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez missed his second straight game due to a viral infection, and Guillen didn’t start due to a right knee injury sustained last season.
Cleveland’s Scott Elarton remained winless in 25 road starts since May 6, 2001, for Houston at Montreal, allowing two runs, four hits and three walks in 5 1-3 innings.
Detroit starter Nate Robertson allowed two runs—one earned—and four hits in seven innings.
“I felt pretty good,” Robertson said. “I thought I made a lot of pretty good pitches today, especially with my changeup. This was a tough game to lose.”
Infante’s RBI double put Detroit ahead in the third, but Jose Hernandez had a run-scoring single in the fourth.
Peralta hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth, but shortstop Jason Smith, who had just come in after Ramon Martinez sprained his left thumb, threw out Josh Bard at the plate trying to score on Ronnie Belliard’s infield single.
Martinez was injured diving for Coco Crisp’s fifth-inning single. X-rays were negative and he was to undergo more tests this weekend. … Hernandez’s RBI single was his first hit of the year. … Boone’s last regular-season homer was Sept. 26, 2003, against Baltimore.