The Closer: Motorama

Notes from a day in baseball:

1. Jim Leyland Welcomes You To Tiger Town. Please Wipe Your %$&#; Feet. So to recap, the Detroit Tigers were two games short of setting the record for most losses in a season two years ago, and they haven't seen the playoffs since 1987. That's right; this team has not been in the playoffs since baseball video games looked like this. (We learned all about that yesterday, remember?). But then, Jim Leyland arrived. And the first thing he did, besides distributing ashtrays throughout the clubhouse and hanging a photo of Wilford Brimley above his desk, was to kick a little rear end. It's working; the Tigers are as gnarly and aggressive as their manager. Detroit hitters have walked only 98 times this season (the White Sox have 136) and have struck out 276 times (that's a lot). But they make things happen, as in their 2-0 win over the Twins on Wednesday, with rookie Justin Verlander (5-3) scattering six hits over eight innings with no walks. The Tigers have won six straight, and are tied with the White Sox for the best record in baseball.

2. Adventureland. A funny thing happened on the way to a blowout win for the San Diego Padres; a game broke out. San Diego scored nine runs in the first (remember that, Rangers?), but had to wrestle a 14-10 win from the Diamondbacks at What About Bob? Field in Arizona. The snakes tied a team record with an eight-run sixth, coming within 11-10. But Brian Giles' three-run homer in the eighth (he finished with seven RBI) finally gave San Diego the upper hand, and first place in the NL West. By the way, we should point out that every team in the NL West is over .500; the only division in baseball where that is true. We know; freaky.

3. Bull Durham. The Giants left Houston with Barry Bonds still stuck at 713. Too bad, San Francisco could have used the offense, only managing to sweep the three-game series from the Astros by a combined score of 34-5. That included Wednesday's 10-1 win, which Bonds sat out.

4. Dogs And Cats, Living Together ... First, we learned of this. Then, with our senses still reeling, we discovered that the Orioles have beaten the Red Sox (4-3). We expect the planets to collide any minute, spewing debris throughout the universe. Also, we just looked outside and everything's covered in locusts. Baltimore had lost 13 straight to Boston, dating back to when Babe Ruth was a pitcher. Key quote from the Orioles' Kevin Millar: "It's a win that we needed to have." Thank you, Kevin. Now back up to the booth.

5. Oh, No He Din't! Can the Pirates get even a modicum of respect? Is modicum a word? Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati 7-2 on Wednesday, prompting Reds' losing pitcher Bronson Arroyo to say: "To get off to a start like that against a team like this, especially after we hadn't won for four days in a row, it's (bad). This can't happen, period. If I can't stand on the mound and feel comfortable against that lineup, then something's wrong with me.'' Wow. Arroyo broke into the majors with Pittsburgh in 2000 and spent three seasons there. When he pitches against them again, we would like to, um, be there. Should be fun, in a pitcher-and-manager-both-ejected sort of way.