Ivan Rodriguez's three-run homer in the third inning gave Detroit a six-run lead and the Tigers needed to make some strong defensive plays to hold on for an 8-7 victory over St. Louis on Saturday night.
"We really had to work hard for that one," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "They showed why they were world champions.
"And, I think you saw one of the reasons we were in the World Series. We kept battling our tail off."
Gary Sheffield hit a solo homer in the seventh, helping Detroit win the first two games of a three-game series between last year's World Series teams. It was his 463rd home run, moving him past Jose Canseco for 30th on baseball's all-time list.
"Just keep pushing him back," Sheffield said when asked if it meant anything to pass Canseco.
Canseco's book accused several stars of steroid use. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Sheffield testified in 2003 before the grand jury that he didn't knowingly take steroids while working out with Barry Bonds.
The Tigers drew a sellout crowd for the second straight game and the fans were on their feet and twirling white towels for the finish.
Closer Todd Jones gave up two runs, allowing St. Louis to pull within a run, and the bases were loaded when Scott Rolen popped out to end the game.
Albert Pujols was not comforted by the comeback.
"It doesn't matter how you lose a game," he said. "If you lose, you lose. No matter by how much or how little."
Nate Robertson (4-3) allowed two runs, six hits and four walks. He lobbied to stay in the game for another inning, but Leyland won the argument.
"He normally does," Robertson said with a grin.
Wilfredo Ledezma replaced Robertson and struggled, allowing two runs and two hits while getting only one out. Tim Byrdak followed and allowed a run over 1 1/3 innings. Fernando Rodney allowed a hit in 1 1/3 innings.
Jones gave up a two-out single to pinch-hitter Aaron Miles and Scott Spiezio followed with an RBI double, then did just enough for his 14th save in 16 chances.
Anthony Reyes (0-7) had another rough outing, giving up seven runs and nine hits in 5 2/3 innings for the Cardinals.
"I just made bad pitches -- got them up in the zone," he said. "I was throwing strikes, but they were in the middle of the plate. When I tried to make a pitch, it just didn't go where I wanted."
Reyes has struggled since Game 1 of the World Series, when he retired 17 consecutive batters before giving up a seventh-inning single and pitching eight-plus innings to help St. Louis win 7-2 en route to the title.
After winning the series opener 14-4, the Tigers got off to a good start offensively again.
Carlos Guillen's single put Detroit ahead 2-0 in the first inning and Curtis Granderson's RBI double added a run to the lead in the second.
Rodriguez's homer put the Tigers ahead 6-0 in the third.
"Not many teams are swinging the bat like they are," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
The Cardinals cut into the deficit with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings and would've scored more if Detroit didn't make plays with their gloves and arms.
Yadier Molina's RBI double in the fourth made it 6-1 and the hit would've driven in another run had third baseman Brandon Inge not made a sensational play. Inge robbed Juan Encarnacion of a single with a diving stop in the hole and a throw to first to lead off the inning.
"He's a highlight reel, but that was one of the best plays I've seen him make," Robertson said.
Molina's single in the next inning brought home another run, but Pujols was also thrown out by left fielder Craig Monroe.
In the seventh -- when St. Louis trailed by two runs -- So Taguchi was caught stealing on Rodriguez's throw to second.
- Tigers LHP Kenny Rogers is one step closer to returning in June, a month ahead of schedule. "I threw off the mound for the first time yesterday," Rogers said Saturday. "I felt good and I feel good today." Rogers had surgery in early April to remove a blood clot from his pitching shoulder. "It was scary," he said. "Then, the really hard part was following doctor's orders to not do anything for a few weeks."
- Pujols is 5-for-7 in the series, improving his batting average to .267 after a slow start. "When the season is over, he'll be closer to .345 than .245," Leyland said.
- After visiting the Tigers in their clubhouse following the game, Pistons guard Chauncey Billups and Richard Hamilton went to the other clubhouse -- specifically to talk with Pujols.
- Detroit is optimistic that RHP Jeremy Bonderman (on the DL with a blister) will make his next scheduled start Thursday.