DETROIT (CBS / AP) — Hideki Matsui doesn’t think of himself as a member of the 500-homer club.
Still, he’s glad people will stop asking about it.
Matsui hit his 500th professional homer Wednesday and drove in three runs to lead the Oakland Athletics over the Detroit Tigers 7-5. He has hit 168 major-league homers after hitting 332 for the Yomiuri Giants.
“I’m happy to get it over with, and it is even better that it helped us win a game,” Matsui said through an interpreter. “It isn’t like I’ve been aiming for this, because I don’t really combine numbers from Japan and here. To me, they are two separate leagues.”
Oakland manager Bob Melvin disagreed.
“I don’t care that it is split, or how many he hit where,” he said. “It is still the major leagues here and the major leagues in Japan, and it is quite a feat by a fantastic player.”
Matsui led off the sixth inning with his milestone homer—his first since June 16 — to put Oakland up 3-2 and end Duane Below’s night.
“It’s great to see him get it, because the guys have been teasing him about taking so long,” said Oakland starter Brandon McCarthy. “We needed all his hits today to win this game.”
Below, making his major-league debut, allowed three runs—one earned—in five-plus innings.
“He did fine,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought at one point that the heat was getting to him, but he picked back up again.”
Fellow rookie Lester Oliveros finished the inning, and Detroit took the lead with three runs in the bottom of the sixth.
Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera led off with singles off McCarthy, and Victor Martinez followed with a two-run double off reliever Joey Devine (1-1).
McCarthy said the heat and humidity—the heat index was 99 degrees at game time—caused him to struggle. He allowed four runs on six hits in five-plus innings.
“I’ve never felt like that before,” he said. “It was like pitching while wearing a heavy blanket. I never got comfortable.”
Tigers reliever David Purcey (1-2) walked the first three batters of the seventh before giving way to Joaquin Benoit.
Cliff Pennington singled to make it 5-4, and Josh Willingham’s sacrifice fly tied the game. Matsui and Conor Jackson then hit RBI singles to give Oakland a 7-5 lead.
“We don’t get a lot of homers or even extra-base hits, so that’s how we have to beat teams,” Melvin said. “We hit singles and draw walks and put as much pressure as possible on the other team.”
Matsui had a RBI single in Oakland’s two-run third, but Don Kelly’s triple helped the Tigers tie the game in the bottom of the inning.
Andrew Bailey, Oakland’s sixth pitcher, pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 tries, striking out Cabrera to end the game with a runner on second.
Notes: The Tigers acquired 3B Wilson Betemit from Kansas City for two minor leaguers. Betemit, who is expected to join the Tigers in Minnesota on Thursday, will replace Brandon Inge as the starting third baseman. Inge, an 11-year Tiger, was designated for assignment after the game. He told the team that he will accept a demotion to Triple-A Toledo if he clears waivers. … Matsui has hit 333 homers in Japan, including one major-league homer, 160 in the United States and seven in Canada. … Scott Sizemore, traded for Purcey earlier in the season, entered the game as a ninth-inning defensive replacement after being hit in the jaw by a Rick Porcello pitch on Tuesday.
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