Infante drives in a career-high four runs as Tigers top M's

Tigers 9, Mariners 7

DETROIT (AP) -- In entertaining fashion, the Detroit Tigers matched the longest winning streak in baseball this season.

Omar Infante drove in a career-high four runs, Gary Sheffield homered and two outfielders made spectacular catches to seal Detroit's 9-7 victory over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.

The Tigers have won eight straight, tying San Francisco's run of consecutive victories from April 18-26 and equaling the best streak the defending AL champions had in 2006.

"I don't worry about winning streaks," Detroit manager Jim Leyland bristled. "They're nice, obviously, but as long as we pitch and play -- whatever happens, happens."

Detroit did a little bit of everything at the plate and in the field, sending 30,000-plus fans home happy.

After Ichiro Suzuki led off the ninth with a bunt single, Craig Monroe made a diving catch on a bloop to left and right fielder Magglio Ordonez made a sliding scoop on his back on Richie Sexson's sinking liner for the final out.

"I didn't really hold my breath because I didn't think either one of them had a chance to be caught," Leyland said.

In between the highlight-worthy catches, center fielder Curtis Granderson raced to the warning track in left-center and caught Raul Ibanez's drive.

"I have no complaints about that inning," Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. "Monroe makes a great play; Ibanez crushes one into the deepest part of the park; and then Richie hits one down the line that looks like a double until Ordonez makes another circus catch.

"There's nothing you can do about that," he said.

Detroit's Jeremy Bonderman is starting to wonder if anything can be done to fix his first-inning woes.

Suzuki doubled on the first pitch of the game and, on an 0-2 pitch, Sexson hit a three-run homer.

Opponents are batting .421 in the first against Bonderman -- .229 in every other inning -- and have scored 14 of 23 runs against him in the opening inning this year.

"I don't think it's just this season," Bonderman said. "And that's the problem."

He's right.

Over his career, opponents are hitting better than .320 in his first 15 pitches and below .300 the rest of the way.

"After today, can we not talk about it anymore?" Bonderman asked.

Infante played center field, as he does in place of Granderson against left-handed starters, and took advantage of being in the lineup again.

The utility player has hits in eight of the nine games he has started.

"I think Omar could be an everyday player and he's got the talent to be a great player," Bonderman said. "He's behind great players, that's the problem."

Infante's double and triple were the big hits in Detroit's three-run second and fourth innings, and his RBI-single in the sixth put the Tigers ahead 7-5.

Sheffield gave Detroit a three-run lead in the seventh with a solo shot -- his fourth homer in six games -- off Sean Green. Brandon Inge was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded later in the inning.

Detroit ended up needing the extra runs.

Yuniesky Betancourt's two-out, two-run single off Fernando Rodney in the eighth made it 9-7. Todd Jones closed it with his 13th save in 15 opportunities, thanks in large part to his outfielders.

Bonderman (2-0) gave up five runs and seven hits over six innings, picking up his second straight win despite another shaky start. He allowed four earned runs in five innings in his previous outing after giving up just 12 runs in his first five starts, all no-decisions.

Horacio Ramirez (2-2) allowed seven runs and 11 hits -- matching the career high he gave up in his last start -- over 5 2/3 innings.

"I don't know what is going on," he said. "I just know I have to make some kind of adjustment pretty quick."

Game notes
Detroit's previous eight-game winning streak was May 20-27, 2006, in what was the first string of eight-plus victories since the 1984 championship season. ... Seattle fell to 2-4 on its eight-game road trip. ... Mariners right-hander Felix Hernandez threw a simulated game Tuesday, and Hargrove was encouraged. He is scheduled to throw a bullpen session later this week, and the team hopes to have him back in the rotation in about a week. ... Sheffield has a hit in nine of the last 12 games, breaking out of what he said was the worst slump of his career. ... Betancourt was 3-for-4 with three RBIs.