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  Saturday, Jul. 15 1:15pm ET
Ausmus (3-for-3) fuels Tigers' comeback

DETROIT (AP) -- Reaching .500 has suddenly become a realistic goal for the Detroit Tigers. Especially if they keep playing games like Saturday's 11-6 win over the Houston Astros.

Brad Ausmus hit a two-run single in a seven-run seventh that rallied Detroit past Houston. The win left the Tigers, who started the year 5-17 and 9-23, at 40-47.

Brad Ausmus
Brad Ausmus breaks his bat -- and breaks the Astros -- with a two-run single in Detroit's seven-run seventh inning.

"We've got a long way to go," Ausmus said after going 3-for-3 with three RBIs against his former team. "We have to try to keep chipping away and work ourselves back to .500 again."

It's possible considering that 16 of the Tigers' first 18 games after the All-Star break are against teams currently under .500.

Jose Lima, traded from Detroit to the Astros in December 1996 in a deal that included Ausmus, left with a 5-4 lead despite allowing 10 hits in six innings.

Looking for his second straight win after 13 consecutive losses, he wound up with a no-decision. The Astros' bullpen collapsed in the seventh as the Tigers tagged four relievers for five hits, two walks and two sacrifice flies en route to an 11-5 lead.

"The whole inning was just a disaster. Nobody was really sharp," Astros manager Larry Dierker said. "What can you say after that display?"

The first six Tigers reached and scored.

Deivi Cruz hit a tying RBI single before a walk loaded the bases and Ausmus' bloop single put Detroit ahead 7-5. Damion Easley followed with an RBI single, Shane Halter a sacrifice fly, Luis Polonia a run-scoring triple and Rich Becker a sacrifice fly.

Tigers manager Phil Garner said Bobby Higginson's leadoff double off Yorkis Perez keyed the uprising. Higginson drove a pitch sharply to left and never stopped, beating left fielder Moises Alou's throw to second with a pop-up slide.

"Higgy made it happen. He made himself get to second," Garner said. "Then everybody else did a good job after that."

Higginson said he decided to challenge Alou's arm. "I was just trying to hustle and make something happen," Higginson said.

Higginson, Detroit's left fielder, also made the defensive play of the game after Richard Hidalgo hit a sacrifice fly in the Astros' four-run fourth. Alou strayed too far off first base as Higginson caught the ball, and Higginson nailed him with a one-hop throw to first for his major league-leading 12th outfield assist.

"He was almost at second base," Higginson said. "I didn't expect to get him, but I figured, 'Why not give it a shot?'"

Doug Henry (1-3) gave up a single and two walks to the only three batters he faced in the seventh, and all three scored.

Lima, who threw 84 pitches through six innings, did not second-guess being removed from the game.

"I couldn't go no farther. I was making some pretty quality pitches out there, but they were hitting them," Lima said. "I was disappointed I didn't get the job done. I really wanted to pitch well against Detroit."

Danny Patterson (4-1) worked two innings for the win, allowing Hidalgo's 25th homer in the eighth.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the second when Dean Palmer doubled and scored on Ausmus' single.

Tony Eusebio hit a two-run homer over the 420-foot mark in center to highlight the Astros' four-run fourth. Alou hit an RBI single and another run scored on Hidalgo's sacrifice fly. The Tigers got two back in the fifth on an RBI single from Palmer and Cruz's sacrifice fly. Alou doubled and scored on Daryle Ward's double, giving the Astros a 5-3 lead in the sixth. Polonia hit an RBI single after Ausmus doubled in the home half.

"I never felt like we were going to lose the ballgame," Higginson said. "We were down but never out. It was just a matter of staying close and giving us a chance."

Game notes
Houston lost two of three in Detroit after winning six straight from the Tigers over the past two seasons. ... The Tigers retired former outfielder Willie Horton's uniform No. 23 and unveiled a statue of him beyond the left-center field wall at Comerica Park during pregame ceremonies. The statue joins those of Detroit Hall of Famers Ty Cobb, Hank Greenberg, Charlie Gehringer, Hal Newhouser and Al Kaline, which were in place when the park opened in April. ... Tigers starter Willie Blair gave up five runs on seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.

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