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TONIGHT: Hit-or-miss Tigers can match homers, strikeouts with anyone


You thought Mo Vaughn was big? You thought Jack Clark struck out a lot? You thought the Red Sox, with sluggers like Clark, Tom Brunansky and Mike Greenwell, were going to light up the AL East sky with homers?

Think again. The Detroit Tigers, who take on the Orioles in the first of a three-game set tonight at Memorial Stadium (7:35, HTS), will match their sluggers with any in the major leagues, and probably come out on top.

With a whopping 512, the Tigers lead the majors in strikeouts, but they also have the most home runs in both leagues, with 93. Their closest competition for the major-league lead is the Chicago Cubs, who have 80.

First among the Motown sluggers is the man who makes Mo Vaughn look not so big, Cecil Fielder, last year's major-league leader in home runs, with 51.

This year, Fielder is tied for second in the AL in home runs with 18. His extra girth accumulated during the offseason does not appear to be detrimental to his productivity -- he leads the major leagues with 60 RBIs.

Not only that, Fielder, who has whiffed 71 times, does not even lead the team in strikeouts. That honor belongs to Rob Deer, who has struck out a major-league-leading 96 times. While Deer has struggled at the plate, he is hitting only .189, he has 15 home runs.

Fielder and Deer are not the only Tigers sluggers. Former Oriole Mickey Tettleton has 14 and veteran Lou Whitaker has 10.

All that power has propelled Detroit into the upper echelon of the AL East. The Tigers are only a half-game back of the second-place Red Sox, and trail the Blue Jays by only five.

Ben McDonald (2-3, 7.03 ERA) will make his long-awaited return to the Orioles tonight. For the Tigers, it will be Dan Gakeler (1-1, 4.94).

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