Alexis Gomez hit a two-run homer and a two-run single in his first postseason game, and the Detroit Tigers took a two-game lead in the AL championship series with an 8-5 win over the Oakland Athletics Wednesday night.
Craig Monroe had two hits and drove in two runs for the Tigers as they erased an early two-run deficit with seven RBIs from the bottom three hitters in their lineup. And the most remarkable production of all came from a highly unlikely source.
Gomez split the season between Detroit and Triple-A Toledo, driving in just six runs for the Tigers in the entire regular season before making the postseason roster as a spare outfielder.
He hadn't played in Detroit's first five postseason games, but the left-handed hitter replaced Marcus Thames as the Tigers' designated hitter in another apparently inspired move by manager Jim Leyland.
"We just took a shot that maybe, by chance, a lefty may have a shot," Leyland said after penciling in Gomez as his No. 8 hitter.
Gomez drove in two runs with a bases-loaded grounder in the fourth when five-time Gold Glove third baseman Eric Chavez failed to field it cleanly. Gomez then added a two-run shot to right in the sixth inning off Esteban Loaiza, who couldn't stay out of trouble for Oakland.
The Tigers bullpen continued to excel, as Jason Grilli, Fernando Rodney, and Todd Jones struck out six consecutive batters before a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Jones loaded the bases with two outs before Frank Thomas flew out to end the game.
The Tigers, hitting with a patience and peskiness they rarely showed in their free-swinging regular season, hoped to head home to Detroit with command of the best-of-seven series, halfway to their first World Series trip since 1984.
And for the second straight night, the Tigers got remarkable production from the bottom of their lineup. No. 9 hitter Brandon Inge had two RBIs in the Tigers' 5-1 victory in the opener.
Oakland took a 3-1 lead in the third inning of Game 2 on a two-run homer by Milton Bradley, who went 1-for-13 in the division series against Minnesota. The hot-tempered outfielder added a solo home run in the seventh and had a first-inning RBI single off rookie phenom Justin Verlander, who left in the sixth after allowing seven hits and four runs with six strikeouts.
Chavez hit a solo homer in the sixth for the A's, who have never recovered from an 0-2 playoff series deficit in a postseason history that includes four championships.
After Monroe's bases-loaded single scored Placido Polanco in the fourth, Gomez's grounder slipped through Chavez to the outfield. Although the play was ruled a two-run single, the A's must have been shocked at another unimpressive effort by the slick-fielding Chavez, who also failed to do something special with a hard-hit, run-scoring grounder in Game 1.
Inge, who went 3-for-3 in Game 1, capped the fourth-inning rally with a sacrifice fly.
Loaiza left after yielding nine hits and seven runs in six innings. He is winless in six career postseason appearances.
Veteran left-hander Kenny Rogers will lead the Tigers in Game 3 against Rich Harden, the hard-throwing right-hander who spent much of the season on the disabled list.
Leyland shuffled his Game 1 lineup with first baseman Sean Casey sidelined by a calf injury. Carlos Guillen moved from shortstop to first base, replaced by the free-swinging Neifi Perez in the No. 2 spot in the lineup.
The A's held a pregame moment of silence for Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle, who died in a plane crash earlier Wednesday in New York. Lidle, who won 21 games for Oakland from 2001-02, pitched the best game of his career at the Coliseum, a one-hitter against the Texas Rangers.