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Notes: Tigers pitching taking stage
04/26/2006 4:24 PM ET
ANAHEIM -- For the Detroit Tigers, their nine-game road trip out West has been about quality and quantity -- especially in the pitching department. Heading into their series finale with the Angels on Wednesday, the Tigers, who had won six of their first eight games, boasted quality starts in seven of those contests played in Oakland, Seattle and Anaheim.

In fact the Tigers, who have quality starts in nine of their last 10 games, are tied for the lead in the American League in that category with 14.

In the first eight games of the road trip, Tigers starting pitchers combined to post a 5-2 record and a 2.32 ERA. On the season, Tigers starters lead the American League with a 3.74 ERA and .228 batting average against.

As solid as the Tigers starters have been on the trip, so, too, has been the bullpen, which is among just three teams in the Majors -- along with the Phillies and Cubs -- that have not blown a save.

Over the last dozen games, including the eight on the road, Tigers relievers combined for 2.23 ERA. Detroit relievers lead the American League with 6.63 hits per nine innings and 10.65 baserunners per nine innings.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was asked if "quality" starting pitching could be contagious.

"I guess it can be," said Leyland. "I think, for the most part, they have had a plan. For the most part, they have been able to execute. They're going to make mistakes, but some mistakes will be popped up from time to time, and some of the mistakes will be hit over the fence.

"But as long as you have a plan, have an idea of what you want to do and you're trying to execute, that's fine. But some nights, it just doesn't work. You can't get it where you want."

Leyland credits the Tigers' work ethic for much of their success.

"I think that [pitching coach Chuck Hernandez], along with [catchers] Vance [Wilson] and Pudge [Rodriguez], and the pitchers themselves have prepared pretty [darn] good," said Leyland. "We are blessed. Vance was here and Pudge has been in the league for a long time, so he has a good feel for things.

"Kenny Rogers has a good feel, and Chuck, himself, has been in the game a long time [26 years], so it's a matter of making pitches and executing."

Ordonez in the swing of things: Magglio Ordonez, who hit his fourth home run of the season on Tuesday, had five hits in his first two games of the series and took a .356 lifetime Angel Stadium average into Game 3 of the series -- a run that has impressed Leyland.

"I had never really seen a lot of Magglio, except on TV when he was with the White Sox," said Leyland. "He hardly played last year. I think he's staying on the ball so much better now. He's staying on the ball the opposite way. And if he can get a breaking ball that is a mistake, he can normally pull it -- which he did last night.

Leyland is excited to see what a healthy Ordonez can contribute this season.

"His credentials are pretty good, the book is pretty impressive behind his name," said Leyland. "While he didn't play a whole lot last year, we're just hoping he's getting back into the swing of the things. Obviously, that would be a big plus for us. This guy's a professional hitter, not doubt about it."

Stopping the running game: Opponents have stolen three bases in five attempts against the Tigers through the season's first 21 games. Both figures are tied for the fewest in the Majors with the New York Yankees.

Rodriguez, of course, has been a major factor. A year ago, I-Rod threw out 44.1 percent of baserunners attempting to steal.

However, Leyland feels that his pitchers have done a good job, not only in keeping the runners close to first, but throwing the ball to home plate.

"I think Pudge is a factor, but I think that [Justin] Verlander and [Joel] Zumaya and the guys [other pitchers] are 1.1, 1.2 [seconds to home]," said Leyland. "And that's pretty hard to run on that, especially with Pudge Rodriguez back there. It's a combination of things."

Still Leyland was wary of the Angels, who had stolen 15 bases in 19 attempts this season.

"[Angels manager] Mike Scioscia will run on anybody. He's not going to let anybody shut his running game down or at least attempt it, because he's an aggressive guy and he's smart. He's not going to be intimidated by anyone. We are aware of the fact that they want to run, and it's always a cat-and-mouse game."

A new song coming to Comerica? Bill Slayback, the former Detroit Tigers pitcher who penned the baseball song "Move over Babe (Here comes Henry)," has a new CD titled "Lady Dancing on Fire." Leyland, for one, wants it played at Comerica Park.

"I have something that I want the Tigers to play at Comerica Park," said Leyland before Wednesday's game. "'Lady Dancing on Fire' by Billy Slayback. It's outstanding; It has all the stuff; It's tremendous. He did all the music, all the instruments, he played them all.

Along with the CD, Leyland got a visit from an old friend.

"This is good, now, I listened to it [on Tuesday]," said Leyland. "[Slayback] came in to see me, he and John Young. They actually came to see me and Gene [Lamont] both. He gave Gene and I one of these CDs. We're going to play it on the plane [during Wednesday night's trip home]."

Young, an infielder, played with Slayback on the 1971 Tigers team.

"John's a real good buddy of mine," said Leyland. "He was one who always said that he never came to Spring Training in shape because if he did, they would find out that he couldn't play."

On deck: The Tigers have a day off on Thursday, and Leyland plans to get a hair cut and search for a new house with his wife and children.

On Friday, the Tigers open a seven-game homestand. Southpaw Nate Robertson (2-2, 4.98 ERA) takes the mound against the Twins and right-hander Brad Radke (2-2, 7.50 ERA) at 7:05 p.m. ET.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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