Tigers Sweep Orioles

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DETROIT (AP) -- Gary Sheffield took another step toward putting the worst slump of his stellar career behind him.
Sheffield went 4-for-4 with a home run and an RBI single, and Craig Monroe hit a tiebreaking homer in the sixth inning to lead the Detroit Tigers past the Baltimore Orioles 3-2 on Wednesday.
Sheffield was hitting .119 through the first 17 games of the season.
"I never slumped like that in my life," he said.
That led to Detroit manager Jim Leyland giving the nine-time All-Star the day off on April 22, when the Tigers were pushed to 12 innings in a 6-5 win over the Chicago White Sox.
"That's the part that helped me out more than anything," Sheffield said. "We did go to extra innings and he didn't use me. He wanted to make sure I had a clear, fresh day and I took full advantage of it."
Sheffield has a hit in seven of nine games -- improving his batting average to .226 -- since the break. Two of his three homers came in the three-game series against Baltimore.
"You can look at the batting average and see what you see, but there's nothing that man can't do," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. "It was just a matter of time."
Suddenly, the designated hitter is looking a lot like the player the Tigers wanted when they acquired him from the New York Yankees in the offseason for three pitching prospects. Sheffield got a $28 million, two-year extension that keeps him under contract through 2009.
Sheffield's violent swing connected perfectly on the first pitch he saw in the first inning, sending a line drive 385 feet over the left-field fence to give Detroit a 1-0 lead.
"He's been fired up since the bench-clearing thing on Monday," Baltimore starter Steve Trachsel said. "You're supposed to let sleeping dogs lie, and we didn't do that."
The Tigers earned their first sweep of the year and have won a season-high four straight. They played their AL-high 14th one-run game and have won a league-leading nine.
"When you get to the World Series, obviously you play a lot of tough games through the playoffs and through the season," Leyland said. "We know what to do."
Nate Robertson (3-1) gave up two runs and seven hits over 6 2-3 innings. His 2.48 ERA ranks among the AL leaders.
Jason Grilli replaced Robertson and struck out Jay Payton with a runner on second. Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless eighth and Todd Jones worked a perfect ninth for his 10th save in 12 opportunities.
Baltimore has lost four in a row and nine of 10.
"This is frustrating, but we still have more than 130 games to play," Kevin Millar said. "We could go 130-0 and then no one will remember this. We just have to go out and get a `W' and get things going."
Trachsel (1-3) gave up three runs and eight hits over seven innings, losing for the third time in four starts.
"He did a tremendous job to keep us in the ballgame for seven innings, which we badly needed," Perlozzo said. "We just didn't get the runs."
The Orioles had their opportunities in the third with a juggled lineup that they hoped would improve their chances against a lefty.
Baltimore opened the third with three hits, including Payton's tying double that put two runners in scoring position for Miguel Tejada.
Robertson struck out Tejada, but walked the next two batters to give the Orioles a 2-1 lead before getting out of the bases-loaded jam when Millar grounded into a double play.
"We had a great chance to break the game open right there, and we didn't get many chances after that," Perlozzo said.
With the score tied, Trachsel hung a breaking pitch and Monroe drove it over the left-field fence.
"I don't regret it at all," Trachsel said. "If a power guy like him was looking for a 2-0 curve, then I tip my hat to him."
Monroe has two homers in two games after hitting only one in his first 25.

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