Tigers hold off late rally from O's to win series opener

BALTIMORE (AP) -- A few words of advice went a long way for Gary Sheffield -- say, around 750 feet.

Sheffield hit one home run and was robbed of another, and the Detroit Tigers also got homers from Brandon Inge and Marcus Thames in a 6-5 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday night.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was shopping for clothes in New York during the All-Star break when someone he described only as a former "great player" offered a few tips on how Sheffield could improve his swing.

After a horrendous first half in which he batted .217 with five homers and 18 RBIs, Sheffield wasn't about to reject any suggestion. So he acted upon the suggestion after conferring with Leyland and hitting coach Lloyd McClendon.

"A lot of people feel like I've been doing it my way for 20 years," Sheffield said. "... But like I say, `If you see something, say something.' I'm not one of those guys who's not approachable. I try to take advice from everybody else."

The results were immediate: The slugger hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat and in the eighth he hit a liner that cleared the wall but was snagged by left fielder Jay Payton, who made a perfectly timed leap.

"I don't want Sheff to change. ... We just talked about it, suggested it," Leyland said. "It wasn't a total adjustment for him. He lowered his hands a little bit."

With Sheffield leading the way, the Tigers opened the second half in much the same fashion they arrived at the All-Star break. After hitting 17 home runs in their first 12 games in July, Detroit picked up the pace against the Orioles.

"They live a lot with the home run ball and we didn't keep the ball in the ballpark," Orioles manager Dave Trembley said. "So that was a negative for us."

Baltimore absorbed its ninth straight loss in a game decided by one run -- including six during a 1-8 stretch that has dropped the Orioles four games under .500 (45-49) for the first time this season.

Melvin Mora homered and Baltimore had 14 hits, but went 4-for-11 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine.

"Yeah, we had our chances. Swinging the bats good all night long and we had some first-and-third situations with less than two outs, we didn't get runners across," said Kevin Millar, who had two hits but made the final out with runners at the corners. "We battled, but we just couldn't get that tying run."

Kenny Rogers (7-6) allowed four runs and 11 hits in six gritty innings for the Tigers, who moved within 6 1/2 games of first-place Chicago in the AL Central. Detroit has won 24 of 35 since June 6.

"This is when it all counts," Sheffield said. "You want to make it all right in the second half, get off to a good start and go from there."

Todd Jones, the fifth Detroit pitcher, worked the ninth for his 18th save. After Aubrey Huff hit a one-out, bases-loaded sacrifice fly, Jones retired Millar on a grounder to third.

Baltimore starter Garrett Olson (6-5) gave up five runs, seven hits and four walks in six innings.

Inge gave the Tigers a 5-4 lead in the sixth with his seventh homer following a two-out single by Edgar Renteria. It was his first home run on the road since May 17, 2007, at Boston.

Baltimore got runners at the corners with no outs in the bottom half, but Ramon Hernandez got caught in a rundown after breaking to the plate on a grounder by Brandon Fahey, and Brian Roberts hit into a 5-3 double play.

That ended Rogers' night, but the 43-year-old stuck around long enough to earn his 217th victory, tied with former Detroit star Mickey Lolich for 19th place on the career list among left-handers.

"They got a lot of hits pretty much most innings, but I got out of those jams," Rogers said. "Some days you have to give them credit. Their approach was good, they went out and got a few pitches and I did make some mistakes."

Thames connected off Dennis Sarfate in the seventh to make it 6-4.

Sheffield put the Tigers up 2-0 in the second with his 486th career homer -- the first since June 26 -- following a walk to Miguel Cabrera.

Baltimore used four straight hits to pull even in the bottom half, including a run-scoring double by Mora and an RBI single by Hernandez.

Each team scored a run in the third, and Mora's 12th homer put Baltimore ahead for the first time, 4-3 in the fourth. Rogers avoided further damage by striking out Adam Jones with the bases loaded and two outs.

Game notes
Detroit RF Magglio Ordonez, activated from the DL before the game after being sidelined since June 29 with a pulled oblique muscle, went 1-for-5. ... Jones had two hits and has reached base safely in 17 straight games. ... Sheffield's homer gave him 1,596 RBIs, lifting him past Mike Schmidt into 31st place on the career list.