Tigers 9, Nationals 8

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WASHINGTON (AP)—Without a trusted option to protect a four-run lead in the ninth inning, Detroit manager Jim Leyland turned to closer Todd Jones on Monday in a non-save situation.

Jones promptly gave up three runs, before getting Ronnie Belliard to ground out with runners on the corners to preserve a 9-8 victory over the Washington Nationals.

Afterward, Leyland and Jones had a difference of opinion on the near-meltdown.

“My job is to get outs, and I got them,” said Jones, who has 17 saves in 21 opportunities but a 5.86 ERA. “You guys can laugh and make fun of the ERA all you want. But when that rubber hits the road, it goes through me and that’s the way I want it.”

Leyland thought Jones struggled because the game—once a 9-1 rout—wasn’t on the line.

“Right now, a four-run lead is a save situation for us,” Leyland said. “But in fairness to him, I think sometimes you don’t quite have the adrenaline if it’s not a save situation.”

Told that Leyland was taking responsibility for his sub-par outing, Jones snapped: “I’m a grown man. I’ve got 280 career saves. I know how to get ready for a game.”

Carlos Guillen and Marcus Thames homered for the Tigers, who have won six of their last nine and are 9-4 in interleague play this season. Guillen drove in three runs and Gary Sheffield and Thames had two RBIs each.

Mike Maroth (5-2) picked up his 50th career victory despite giving up five runs—four earned—on six hits over five-plus innings. The left-hander, who doubled in the fifth for his first career extra-base hit, walked two and struck out four.

Leading 3-1 in the fifth, the Tigers sent nine batters to the plate. Maroth doubled, Curtis Granderson walked and Placido Polanco singled to load the bases, before Sheffield’s two-run single to left-center. After Magglio Ordonez walked to load the bases, Guillen lined a two-run single to short right.

Ivan Rodriguez hit into a run-scoring double play, and Thames drove a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line and into the upper deck for a 9-1 lead—and what proved to be the decisive run.

Matt Chico (3-5), trying for his first victory since May 17 after five consecutive no-decisions, gave up a career-high eight runs on nine hits in four innings. He walked two and struck out one.

The Nationals scored four times in the sixth. Felipe Lopez tripled home Cristian Guzman, then scored when Guillen booted Ryan Zimmerman’s grounder. Maroth departed after allowing Dmitri Young’s single and walking Austin Kearns to load the bases.

Ryan Church greeted Bobby Seay with an RBI single to right, and Brian Schneider hit his second sacrifice fly to make it 9-5.

Detroit took a 2-0 lead in the second. Ordonez singled and went to third on a double by Guillen. After Rodriguez struck out, Thames singled in a run, snapping an 0-for-15 skid, and Brandon Inge hit a sacrifice fly.

Schneider’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the inning cut the lead in half.

Guillen made it 3-1 in the fourth, hammering Chico’s fastball off the mezzanine facade in left-center for his 10th homer.

Pinch-hitter Ryan Langerhans opened the ninth with a double down the right-field line off Jones. After Robert Fick singled to left, Guzman sliced a triple into the right-field corner, making it 9-7. Lopez singled Guzman home and Zimmerman followed with a single to right.

Jones fanned Young, and a fielder’s choice grounder by Kearns left runners at the corners with two down. Belliard bounced out to short to end it.

“I was looking for that pitch, a breaking ball,” Belliard said. “He just threw it hard. … He just left it high.”


Maroth matched his win total from an injury-shortened 2006 season. … Detroit optioned RHP Yorman Bazardo to Triple-A Toledo and recalled RHP Eulogio De La Cruz from the Mud Hens. Bazardo was 0-0 with a 4.15 ERA in four relief appearances. De La Cruz made his major league debut in the eighth. … Schneider leads Washington with four sacrifice flies.

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