DETROIT -- With one swing, Wilson Betemit helped ease at least one of his manager's postseason concerns.
Betemit hit a 423-foot home run in his first game back from left knee soreness, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians 9-6 on Tuesday night.Betemit hadn't played since Sept. 16, and manager Jim Leyland said Monday he was concerned about the third baseman. But Betemit was in the lineup Tuesday, and he gave AL Central champion Detroit a 4-0 lead in the second inning with the towering homer to right field.
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Betemit also drew a walk, and he scored twice before being pulled after five innings."It worked out pretty good," Leyland said. "Wilson came back and played a few innings, went up and got treated right afterward. He'll play tomorrow again."The Tigers remained one game behind AL West champion Texas, which cruised to a 10-3 victory at the Los Angeles Angels. Detroit needs to finish at least even with the Rangers to have home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs. If not, the Tigers will start on the road against the New York Yankees."You just embrace it," Detroit right-hander Max Scherzer said. "Who knows what happens? But that's the beauty of postseason baseball. We're just excited to be in it."Scherzer (15-9) allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven in his final tuneup for the postseason. Jose Valverde pitched the ninth, earning his 48th save in as many chances.Jeanmar Gomez (5-3) allowed eight runs and 10 hits in 4 2/3 innings. He had won his previous five starts.Delmon Young had three hits for Detroit, including a two-run homer.Miguel Cabrera homered and doubled, and his AL-leading batting average remained at .343."He's locked in pretty good, obviously. That's good news," Leyland said. "He's swinging really good. His concentration level is tremendous right now, so hopefully that'll keep up."Detroit has left no doubt about which team is the class of the division. The Tigers have won their last 15 games against second-place Cleveland and third-place Chicago. They have won nine in a row against the Indians, who trail Detroit by 14 games."That's a team that is going into the playoffs in better shape than almost any other team," Cleveland manager Manny Acta said. "They've been playing great for more than a month -- and they are playing hard for home-field advantage. You can't get away with many mistakes against them right now."The Tigers took the first game of this regular season-ending series against Cleveland 14-0, and they kept pouring it on against Gomez. Young opened the scoring with an RBI single, and Magglio Ordonez drove in two runs later in the first with a single.After Betemit's homer, which landed around the back of the lower level of seating in right field, Cleveland scored a run in the fourth on an RBI double by Shelley Duncan. Young's two-run shot in the bottom of the inning made it 6-1.Ordonez drove in another run with a double in the fifth, and Ryan Raburn's double the same inning made it 8-2. Scherzer, who will start Game 3 of Detroit's first-round playoff series, didn't make it out of the sixth, allowing a two-out, two-run single by Jason Donald. Reliever Daniel Schlereth struck out Kosuke Fukudome with two outs and the bases loaded.Cabrera homered in the bottom half, his 30th of the year. Cabrera reached 30 home runs for the fifth straight season and seventh time in his career.Jim Thome hit an RBI double in the seventh, and after Raburn dropped a routine flyball in right for an error, Lonnie Chisenhall added a run-scoring single to make it 9-6.The game was delayed 31 minutes at the start by rain.
Ordonez extended his hitting streak to 18 games. ... Detroit's Joaquin Benoit struck out the side in the eighth to set up Valverde. ... The Tigers are 29-9 since Aug. 19. ... In Wednesday night's regular-season finale, the Tigers will send Rick Porcello (14-9) to the mound against Cleveland's Zach McAllister (0-1). ... Cleveland SS Asdrubal Cabrera didn't play Tuesday, and Acta didn't expect to play him Wednesday either. "Let's see the young kids," Acta said. "Let me see Jason Donald. I know what Cabrera can do." ... Detroit has 51 saves this season, tying a franchise record set by the 1984 team that won the World Series.