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Leyland: Defense provides a lift

Leyland: Defense provides a lift
DETROIT -- Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland appreciates the momentum a team can build with defense.

"A lot of people think the only momentum you get is through offense. I'm a big believer in defense bringing you momentum," Leyland said after watching the Tigers turn in three sparkling defensive plays in their first homestand at Comerica Park, in which they swept the Texas Rangers and split two games with the Chicago White Sox.

The Tigers (5-4) open a nine-game trip west tonight in Seattle against the red-hot Mariners, who had their six-game win streak snapped late Thursday by the Angels. Seattle matched its best start after nine games as the 2001 when the Mariners won 116 games.

Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki returned from the disabled list (bleeding ulcer) Wednesday night, and hit a grand slam in his first game of the season.

Seattle also has welcomed back outfielder Ken Griffey Jr., who started his career with the Mariners in 1989 and played there until '99. Griffey played eight seasons with the Cincinnati Reds and split the 2008 season with the Reds and the Chicago White Sox before signing with Seattle as a free agent.

He is batting .227 with two home runs and two RBIs and has played in seven games this season.

The Tigers' road trip will include three games against the Los Angeles Angels and the Kansas City Royals before they return to Comerica Park on April 27 to face the New York Yankees.

Leyland described the Tigers' web gems of the week -- outfielder Josh Anderson throwing out a runner at home on opening day, an over-the-shoulder catch by third baseman Brandon Inge, and another play by Inge in which he snagged a grounder down the line and threw out the runner at first.

"Defensive plays are big motivational things for your team as well as a double with the bases loaded," Leyland said. "In a close game, someone makes a defensive play, that's an instant charge for your team."

The Tigers posted winning records at Seattle (4-3) and Kansas City (5-4) last season. They were 1-2 at Anaheim.

"Seattle will be very enthusiastic. They have a fresh manager (Don Wakamatsu), and they have a tremendous arm at the end of their bullpen in Brandon Morrow," Leyland said.

"The Angels are a perennial contender seems like every season, but they are dealing with some health issues right now and Kansas City is playing well."

"There are no breathers."

Granderson gets going

Outfielder Curtis Granderson snapped an 0-for-16 slump with an RBI single in the eighth inning of Wednesday's 9-0 win against the Chicago White Sox. Granderson has a .205 average (8-for-39).

"We're happy about the momentum we're taking to Seattle, but you also have to forget about it because Chicago played a great first game of this series and we played a great second game," Granderson said. "

Pitching comes through

Tigers pitchers held opposing batters to a .200 batting average (33-of-165) during the five-game homestand.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 20, 2009

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