for this game

Casey's homer powers Tigers past Royals

Sep 23, 2006 - 3:31 AM KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- One swing of Sean Casey's bat overcame a lot of sloppiness by the Detroit Tigers.

Casey belted a two-run homer in the sixth inning as the Tigers posted a 7-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.

In snapping an 0-for-12 skid, Casey hit his fourth home run in 46 games since coming over from the Pittsburgh Pirates just prior to the July 31 trading deadline.

The blast not only put the Tigers (92-62) ahead to stay, but it allowed them to extend their lead in the American League Central Division to 1 1/2 games over Minnesota (90-63), which lost by an identical 7-3 score in Baltimore.

With the third-place Chicago White Sox also losing, 11-6, to the Seattle Mariners, the Tigers could wrap up a playoff berth with a win on Saturday and a Chicago loss.

"This is fun," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "This is what all managers, all players, all organizations want to get into. I've finished first and I've finished last. I've seen all situations.

"I hope the players embrace this for what it is - a pennant race. Hopefully, they are enjoying it. I didn't plan on it this first year. If I didn't think I'd enjoy it, I wouldn't have come back."

Wilfredo Ledezma (3-3), making just his sixth start of the year, overcame some shoddy fielding by his teammates as well as a throwing error of his own to win for the first time since August 6.

"We need to work on some things," Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge said of the sloppy play. "It it going to happen from time to time. It is how you bounce back that is going to determine what kind of ballclub you are. I think we did a good job of bouncing back."

The Venezuelan lefthander allowed three runs - one earned - and four hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out four and walking three.

Zach Miner got the final out in the sixth before Joel Zumaya bridged the seventh and eighth to closer Todd Jones, who retired the side in order in the ninth.

"He pitched great," Inge said of Ledezma. "He did a good job of shutting them down when we needed him to after we got some runs. That was key. It was a give-and-take thing."

Playing their first game without manager Buddy Bell, who underwent successful throat surgery earlier Friday, the Royals were equally mistake-prone in the field, helping the Tigers tack on three runs in the ninth with a throwing error and wild pitch.

"That's why they're sitting where they're sitting," Royals interim manager Billy Doran said of the Tigers. "Their lineup's loaded from top to bottom. It's a six-inning game with these guys.

"If you get into the seventh with their depth, your chances aren't real good. When these guys are throwing Zumaya, (Fernando) Rodney and Jones at you, it turns into a six-inning game in a hurry."

Royals righthander Luke Hudson (7-6) failed to win for the fourth consecutive start, yielding four runs and seven hits.

The Tigers jumped on top in the second, when Carlos Guillen tripled home Magglio Ordonez and scored on Matt Stairs' single for a 2-0 lead.

But the Tigers gave back the runs in the third. After Angel Berroa beat out a bunt and Jeff Keppinger singled to put runners at first and second, Paul Phillips grounded to Inge. Instead of tagging the lead runner or stepping on third, he threw to second for the force, leaving runners at the corners.

The speedy Joey Gathright then hit a chopper to Ledezma, who hesitated before throwing wildly past first base, plating Berroa and Phillips to make it 2-2.

Gathright used his legs to put the Royals in front in the fifth. After reaching on a forceout, he stole second and third and trotted home when catcher Ivan Rodriguez's throw skipped past Inge and into left field.

Rodriguez led off the sixth with a single and Casey followed by drilling a fastball from Hudson over the wall in center field to put the Tigers on top, 4-3.

"I'd like to have that one pitch back," Hudson said. "It was a full-count fastball. It was supposed to be away, and it was right over the middle. That's what lost us the game right there."

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