The Tigers needed one victory this weekend to clinch the AL Central Division title. One victory against the worst team in baseball, a team to which they had lost only once in 15 tries all year. They couldn't do it. The Tigers were swept by the Royals in a series that was painful to watch. They blew a 5 run lead on Friday night and lost 9-7. They allowed 7 runs in the first inning on Saturday night in route to a 9-6 loss. Today, they had a 6-0 lead and wound up losing 10-8 in 12 innings. After spending 134 days in first place, they lost the division title to the Minnesota Twins who were 12 1/2 games back as recently as July.
Today, they staked Jeremy Bonderman to a 6-0 lead after 3 innings but he could not make it through the 5th inning. He allowed 3 runs in the 4th and 1 in the 5th before yielding to Joel Zumaya. Zumaya pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and left with a 7-4 lead in the 7th. Fernando Rodney could not hold it as he allowed 4 8th inning runs. A Brandon Inge throwing error did not help.
It was 8-7 going into the bottom of the 8th. Matt Stairs tied it with a pinch hit home run in the bottom of the inning but that would be the end of the scoring for the Tigers. It appeared for a moment that Brandon Inge had hit a dramatic walk off grandslam in the 11th but it just went foul. Instead he struck out.
The game lasted so long that Jim Leyland was forced to bring in Kenny Rogers in the 11th. He gave up 2 runs in the 12th inning and the sweep was complete. It was a terrible finish to the season, a season that will be ultimately remembered by most Tiger fans as magical even though it's not feeling too magical tonight.
It's not over yet. Nate Robertson faces Chien-Ming Wang on Tuesday night in game one of the first round of the playoffs in New York. On Wednesday night, Justin Verlander matches up against Mike Mussina. A lot of Tigers fans are not feeling too confident right now but the post-season is a whole new ballgame. Realistically, the odds are in the Yankees favor but anything is possible in a 5 game series, especially when you have pitching as the Tigers do. Yes, they do have pitching. Remember that?
Bring on the Yankees!