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Damon's homer, throw lift Tigers

Johnny Damon finally went deep for the host Detroit Tigers, and his first home run of the season couldn't have come at a better time.

Damon connected off reliever Scot Shields with one out in the ninth inning yesterday to give the Tigers a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.

Damon finished with three hits and also made a sterling play on defense, throwing out his former Yankees teammate Hideki Matsui in the sixth to keep the score tied at 2. Damon is not known for a strong arm, but his throw beat Matsui to the plate.

"I know, over the years, the arm strength definitely goes away some," Damon said. "But I always work on trying to grab the ball and getting rid of it as soon as possible . . . to keep teams from running on me."

Los Angeles manager Mike Scioscia didn't think Damon got rid of the ball quick enough to get Matsui. Scioscia even argued with plate umpire Gary Cederstrom, who told him that Tigers catcher Gerald Laird blocked Matsui's foot off the plate.

"That's about as well as Johnny Damon can throw a ball and he's still safe," Scioscia said.

The throw also surprised Detroit manager Jim Leyland.

"I wasn't looking for him to throw him out there. I didn't really expect that, but he did. That's a good thing," Leyland said. "But when I saw the hit, I thought the run would score.

"He obviously threw it as good as he could. He got rid of it quick and accurate." The throw was the story of the game until Damon trumped it with his homer.

"Definitely would have wanted to get an extra base hit," Damon said, insisting he wasn't trying to hit one out. "Try to get in scoring position." - AP

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