Gomez drives in four as Tigers take 2-0 lead over A's in ALCSOct 12, 2006 - 3:41 AM OAKLAND, California (Ticker) -- Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland appears to have the magic touch. The Oakland Athletics could soon disappear from the postseason.
Seldom-used Alexis Gomez drove in four runs and Leyland again got positive results from a trip to the mound as the Tigers held on for an 8-5 victory, taking a commanding two games to none lead over the Athletics in their American League Championship Series matchup.
Placido Polanco had three hits and Curtis Granderson belted his third postseason homer for Detroit, which returns home for Game Three on Friday.
"To get one out of two in this ballpark would have been big," Granderson said. "Now that we're able to get two, that's really big. At the same time we need to go home and defend. Oakland's going to try and do the same thing that we did to them here, and we have to try and stop them the best we can."
"It's frustrating," A's designated hitter Frank Thomas said. "Our backs are really against the wall now; down 2-0, going to Detroit. We have to continue to grind and get it going. We had the opportunities but just didn't get it done here."
Since 1985, teams that won the first two games of a championship series on the road have never lost the series, winning all eight times. And Leyland, who guided a relative no-name bunch of Florida Marlins to a World Series championship in 1997 and took the Tigers to the postseason after finishing 28 games out in the AL Central last season, can do no wrong.
"When Jim puts out the lineup, it's the right nine. He's the only one who has to know the decision," closer Todd Jones said. "If I walk in there on Friday and see my name as the cleanup hitter, I'd expect to get a hit."
Leyland talked prior to the game about inserting Gomez, stating that "maybe he would run into (a homer)" in the contest. He could not have been more right.
"I thought that it might be a decent matchup," Leyland said. "He's got big-time power. Unfortunately he showed most of it in batting practice. But in fact, I guess I can kid about it now. I told him, 'it's a 5 o'clock game, and that's when you hit most of your home runs normally, so I'm going to play you tonight.' He came up pretty big."
Gomez, who hit four homers in a minor league game for Class AAA Toledo this season, singled in two runs in the fourth inning against Esteban Loaiza (0-1) that gave the Tigers a 4-3 edge. He added a two-run homer to right-center field in the sixth that increased the bulge to 7-3.
"Two years ago I got the chance to play with Detroit," Gomez said. "I feel pretty good here. They gave me a chance to play. Today they gave me the biggest chance I've had in my life, my career."
The 28-year-old Gomez hit .272 with a homer and six RBI in 103 at-bats during two stints with Detroit during the regular season. He replaced Marcus Thames, who is 1-for-30 against Oakland this season, including 0-for-4 in the series opener.
"He (Leyland) told me I'm maybe going to play DH today," Gomez said. "I said 'Ok, I'll be ready.' I just tried to do the best and to help my team, and that's what happened tonight."
Even after inserting Gomez, Leyland was not done controlling the game from his seat in the dugout.
In Game One, Leyland came to the mound in the bottom of the fourth to speak to Nate Robertson after the A's had runners on second and third with none out. The lefthander responded by striking out the next three batters to escape the mess.
After Wednesday's starter Justin Verlander yielded a single to shallow right to D'Angelo Jimenez, the rookie flamethrower went 3-0 on Jason Kendall. Leyland went to the mound, summoned all his infielders and talked to his starter.
"He (Leyland) just told me not to get too excited, just make pitches and focus on this hitter and go after him," Verlander said.
The righthander responded by throwing two strikes before getting Kendall on a groundout. After a four-pitch walk to Mark Kotsay, Milton Bradley lined out to left field and Thomas bounced to third.
Verlander (1-0) left after getting one out in the sixth, yielding four runs and seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.
"It wasn't pretty, it wasn't the way I would have liked it, but a win is a win," Verlander said. "I'm just part of the team here and my guys picked me up. You can't say enough about our hitters and the job they did. I put them in a little bit of a whole and they battled out of it."
About the only thing Leyland did not have an answer for was Milton Bradley. The switch-hitter had four hits, slugged two homers and drove in four runs, becoming the first player in championship series history to homer from both sides of the plate in a postseason game.
"We've been climbing up hill all year," Bradley said. "We just have to continue to do that. It's now or never."
His second homer off Wilfredo Ledezma in the seventh cut the deficit to 7-5, but Leyland then summoned Jason Grilli to get the final out of that frame. Fernando Rodney struck out the side consecutively in the eighth before Jones made it interesting in the ninth.
After striking out the first two hitters, he allowed three straight singles before slugger Thomas popped up a 1-1 fastball into center field for his second postseason save. Thomas finished 0-for-5 with three strikeouts.
"Well heck, I got to go at him as hard as I can and he popped the fastball up," Jones said. "I got away with one. But you stay confident and try to keep your composure. The bullpen did awesome tonight and I'm just trying to finish it off."
"I thought we battled back nice," A's manager Ken Macha said. "We had Frank up there in the end with a chance, and we didn't get it done. But the guys fought their tails off."
Loaiza was charged with seven runs and nine hits in six innings.
"They were swinging the bats," Loaiza said. "They have good contact hitters, they move guys over and run the bases. That's what makes a good baseball team. Everything went their way today, everything went their way yesterday, hopefully we can turn it around in Detroit."
Bradley opened the scoring in the first inning when he hit a broken-bat single over the drawn-in infield, plating Kotsay from third base.
The Tigers tied it in the second on a sacrifice fly by Craig Monroe, but Bradley drilled his second postseason homer in the third - a two-run shot to right-center field for a 3-1 edge. But Loaiza could not hold that lead either, as Detroit responded with four runs.
"We're not a team that's going to put up a bunch of runs," Bradley said. "We do it with pitching and defense. You can't give up eight runs and expect to win the ballgame."
Monroe hit a bases-loaded single to cut the deficit to one. The lefthanded-hitting Gomez hit a chopper to the left of third baseman Eric Chavez, who had the ball tip off his glove into short left field, scoring two runs and giving Detroit a 4-3 lead.
Brandon Inge capped the frame with a sacrifice fly to center as Monroe barely beat a strong throw home by Kotsay.
Monroe started the sixth-inning rally with a two-out double before Gomez homered to right-center, increasing the lead to 7-3. Oakland cut into the lead when Chavez belted his second postseason homer against Verlander in the sixth and Bradley homered in the seventh.
Granderson's homer in the ninth off Huston Street gave Jones a little more breathing room.
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