To be sure, the staff has been aided by pitching in cavernous new Comerica Park Says Moehler, who was 11-7 with a 4.12 ERA, "I learned from my first start there that even on 3-and-0 and 3-and-l counts I can challenge hitters without worry."
That attitude has bred confidence and command: The Tigers have issued the second-fewest walks in the league. The anchor of the staff has been closer Todd Jones, who, since adding a slider to his repertoire late last season, has been dominant. He finished 1999 by converting 18 of his last 20 save opportunities, and through Sunday led the majors with 36 saves and had blown just three chances. "I'm so much better with the slider," says Jones. "It keeps me from having to throw fastballs in fastball counts."
Detroit's surge has also been fueled by an offense that finally awoke after being shut out six times in its first 32 games. Credit that, too, to the Comerica effect: Aware that trying to hit home runs there is a futile pursuit, the Tigers have concentrated on sending line drives to the gaps. Leftfielder Bobby Higginson, for example, has adjusted his swing. "Two years ago, when I was going good, I pulled everything," says Higginson, who had rebounded from a disastrous 1999 to hit .294 with 24 homers and 83 RBIs. "Now I try to go to left when I'm pitched that way, and I get more base hits in the gaps."
"We still have to learn how to manufacture runs, but we're getting better," says Detroit manager Phil Garner, "and I think Comerica makes us better hitters."
Special K Serial
Sept. 1-3, Marlins at Diamondbacks Preston Wilson's march to the single-season strikeout record—through Sunday he needed 27 whiffs in the Marlins' final 33 games to break the mark of 189, set by Bobby Bonds in 1970—should pick up pace when Florida arrives in Arizona. The Diamondbacks led the National League with 969 strikeouts, or 7.5 per game. Wilson's first series of the season against Arizona, in July, was a resounding flop: He went 1 for 11 with four strikeouts. The good news is that he will not face Randy Johnson, who's not scheduled to work in the three-game series. The bad news is that he will face Curt Schilling, against whom he's 0 for 7 with four strikeouts in his career.
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