"This team is going to be the biggest surprise in the second half, I'll tell you that right now," All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez said Thursday night after Ordonez homered in a 6-4 victory over the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
"We're going to be the team to talk (about) in the second half. ... We're a good team."
Ordonez homered for the third time since lobbying to come off the disabled list a week ago and the Tigers extended the hapless Devil Rays' losing streak to a season-high nine games.
Chris Shelton added a two-run homer to back Sean Douglass (2-0), who allowed three runs and five hits in five innings. The bullpen limited the punchless Devil Rays to one run, with Troy Percival working a perfect ninth for his eighth save in 10 opportunities.
The victory was the third straight for Detroit, which played without Rodriguez. He jammed his left pinkie sliding into home during Wednesday night's 7-3 win at Cleveland and is listed day-to-day.
X-rays on Rodriguez's finger were negative, however he said he's likely to remain out of the lineup for at least one more game.
But with Ordonez seemingly on his way to finding his groove after missing more than two months of this season and much of last season, when he was with the Chicago White Sox, the Tigers didn't miss a beat Thursday night.
"He's still not where he wants to be, but it looks like there's going to be some good things to come," said Detroit's Dmitri Young.
Shelton's sixth homer finished a three-run first inning against Seth McClung (0-5). Carlos Guillen drove in Detroit's first run with an RBI double and Ordonez's 384-foot, solo homer put the Tigers up 4-2 in the third.
Ordonez asked manager Alan Trammell to activate him for the DL a couple of days before planned, then hit a two-run homer off New York's Randy Johnson in his first game back. He homered again in a victory at Cleveland on Tuesday.
The four-time All-Star signed a $75 million, five-year contract as a free agent during the offseason and was 0-for-10 in three games for the Tigers before going on the DL with a hernia on April 13.
"As big-time players normally do, they rise to the occasion, and last Friday was one of the ultimate challenges -- Randy Johnson," Trammell said. "Some people might duck him. He wanted him."
The Devil Rays have dropped 12 of 13, and their nine-game skid is the third longest for Lou Piniella as manager.
The bullpen gave up two more runs in the eighth -- meaning opponents have outscored Tampa Bay 92-28 in the inning -- and the offense squandered several opportunities to take control of the game.
"You guys come in every night wanting explanations," Piniella told reporters. "It gets to the point that you're out of explanations. All you want to do is see things done right and win a baseball game. ... All we can do is keep working. Nothing more, nothing else. Keep working, try to get better."
The Devil Rays kept it close by scoring twice in the first and once in the fifth off Douglass, who walked one and struck out four before departing with a 4-3 lead.
Julio Lugo, who had four hits after going 3-for-24 on Tampa Bay's recent road trip, drove in two of the three runs off the Detroit starter with a first-inning triple and a bloop RBI single in the fifth.
McClung, who allowed four runs and six hits in seven innings, settled after walking Placido Polanco and giving up Guillen's RBI double and Shelton's homer to begin the game. Although he yielded Ordonez's homer in the third, the right-hander kept himself in the game by twice working out of jams with runners in scoring position.
Detroit broke it open in the eighth when Young doubled off Chad Orvella with two outs to snap an 0-for-18 drought, then scored on Craig Monroe's double. Brandon Inge followed with another double to make it 6-3.
- Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford led off the bottom of the first with his ninth triple, then scored on Lugo's triple.
- Rodriguez's .381 career batting average against the Devil Rays is the highest among active players.
- The Devil Rays went 0-6 on a road trip that ended Wednesday night in Chicago. Their 8-35 record away from Tropicana Field is the worst road mark after 43 games by any team since the 1963 Mets also were 8-35. It's the slowest road start by an AL team since the 1932 Red Sox began 7-36.