Sparks struck out eight in his third complete game of the
season, and Pena hit a three-run homer as the Detroit Tigers beat
the Texas Rangers 8-2 Tuesday night. Shane Halter added a solo shot for the Tigers, who won for only
the second time in 10 games and snapped a three-game losing streak. Sparks (6-11) gave up seven hits and walked one in his 16th
career complete game. It was the second win in three starts for the
knuckleballer, who has struggled most of the season. ''I got through a couple of rough spots early in the game,''
Sparks said. ''But after that, things seemed to go pretty well. I
was throwing my knuckleball good.'' Pena, who homered in a four-run fourth, was amazed by the
movement of Sparks' knuckler. ''It seemed like it went at a 90-degree angle and went down''
said Pena, who had a good view from first base. Sparks threw 126 pitches, but Tigers manager Luis Pujols wasn't
worried. ''The way he was throwing the knuckleball, I felt comfortable,''
he said. Texas starter Chan Ho Park (4-6) allowed three runs and five
hits in three innings before leaving because of a blister on his
right middle finger. He was replaced by Todd Van Poppel to start
the fourth. The Tigers broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the third on Robert
Fick's RBI single and a bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Chris Truby. Detroit added four more in the fourth off Van Poppel. Leadoff batter George Lombard singled, stole second and scored
on Damion Easley's single. After a walk to Randall Simon, Pena hit
his 12th home run of the year. The drive into the right-field stands was Pena's fifth home run
with the Tigers since arriving from Oakland in the three-team trade
that sent pitcher Jeff Weaver to the New York Yankees on July 6. ''Pena hit the home run with a couple of men on base, so it was
good,'' Pujols said. Detroit took a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an RBI single by
Simon. Texas tied it in the second when Ivan Rodriguez singled, stole
second and scored on Herbert Perry's RBI groundout. The Rangers got a run in the fifth on a run-scoring double by
former Tiger Frank Catalanotto. Texas had runners on second and third with no outs, but Sparks
struck out Kevin Mench and Alex Rodriguez before Rafael Palmeiro
bounced back to the mound on a check swing. ''He went out and threw a game like you see a 20-game winner,
Schilling and those guys,'' Mench said. ''He went out and just
dominated us tonight.'' Michael Young walked and Ruben Rivera singled to start the Texas
seventh, but Sparks got Catalanotto to hit into a double play and
Mench to ground to third. ''Sparks got us out when he needed to,'' Texas manager Jerry
Narron said. Halter hit his sixth home in the seventh.
Park is day to day. ... Simon walked twice, giving him nine
walks this season (four intentional) in 381 plate appearances. He
said he can't ever remember walking twice in a game before. ...
Lombard broke an 0-for-19 skid with a bloop single to center in the
fourth. ... Ivan Rodriguez has 14 hits in his last 35 at-bats.