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Tigers avoid tying loss mark with amazing rally

9/28/2003

DETROIT (AP) -- Even the ever-optimistic Alan Trammell was close
to giving up on his Detroit Tigers.

"I was actually going to take a couple guys out," Trammell
acknowledged.

Detroit's manager decided otherwise and the Tigers staved off a
historic defeat with a startling rally, coming from eight runs down
to beat Minnesota 9-8 on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth
inning Saturday night.

The Tigers were in danger of matching the modern major league
record of 120 losses set by the expansion 1962 New York Mets
(40-120) before pulling off their biggest comeback in 38 years.

Detroit (42-119) now will try to avoid tying the post-1900
record for losses when it finishes the season Sunday against the
Twins.

Mike Maroth, 8-21 and the first pitcher to lose 20 games in
nearly a quarter-century, will start for the Tigers against Kyle
Lohse.

"We're not the worst team in baseball, no matter what," Carlos
Pena said. "We're going to have a better winning percentage than
the Mets, and we won't beat their record. You've got to compare
apples with apples, not apples with oranges, OK? They played 160
games and we'll play 162."

Trailing 8-0 in the fifth, the Tigers scored a run in the bottom
of the inning and three more in the seventh to make it 8-4,
prompting Trammell to keep his best players in the game.

The scrappy Tigers scored four more in the eighth to make it
8-all.

In the ninth, Alex Sanchez walked with one out and stole two
bases. Warren Morris then struck out on a wild pitch from Jesse
Orosco (1-1) as the ball went to the backstop.

Sanchez scored standing up as the Tigers streamed from the
dugout and the sparse crowd cheered and danced.

"At first, I thought it was a foul ball, but everyone in the
dugout was yelling for me to go, so I took off," Sanchez said.
"As soon as I started running, I knew we were going to win the
game. That's when I put my arms in the air.

"We've all pulled together and we are trying to prevent this
from happening, but we still have to win one more game."

It was the Tigers' largest comeback since June 20, 1965, when
they trailed Kansas City 8-0 in the first game of a doubleheader
before winning 12-8, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

After a season filled with losing under Trammell, the Tigers
suddenly have turned tough -- just when it seemed they would own a
record that nobody wanted.

Detroit won for the fourth time in five games. This victory came
against the AL Central champion Twins, who started eight regulars
but pulled all of them before the eighth inning.

"We're not out to try to make them break any records, but we're
just trying to take care of ourselves," Twins manager Ron
Gardenhire said. "Our goal is not to get anybody hurt, but also
play the games."

Brad Radke tuned up for his start in Game 2 of the playoffs
against New York at Yankee Stadium, allowing one run and eight hits
over five innings.

The crowd at Comerica Park was announced as 14,277, but only
about 5,000 appeared to be in the stands in the late innings. The
promise of a postgame fireworks show certainly kept some fans in
the seats.

"People really don't seem to care because they've had enough,"
fan Dan Helvey said. "So be it. It's football season so it's
blase."

Still, the fans who showed up were spirited before the comeback.
They even did the Wave, and no boos were heard.

And the fans who stayed until the end were rewarded with a real
treat.

The Twins threatened to take the lead in the ninth after Justin
Morneau led off with a double. With the crowd on its feet -- again --
reliever Fernando Rodney (1-3) struck out Rob Bowen to end the
inning and strand Morneau at third base.

Catcher Brandon Inge flipped the baseball into the stands over
the dugout.

Sanchez finished with four stolen bases, and his last two set up
the winning run.

Minnesota took the lead right from the beginning, getting a run
in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Doug Mientkiewicz off
Gary Knotts.

The Twins added four more with five straight hits in the fourth,
highlighted by RBI doubles from Torii Hunter and A.J. Pierzynski.

Jacque Jones hit a solo homer and Michael Ryan had a two-run
shot in the fifth that made it 8-0.

The Tigers began their comeback in the fifth on Craig Monroe's
RBI single off Radke.

Pena hit a two-run single in a three-run seventh as Detroit
pulled to 8-4.

Then, the Tigers struck for four runs in the eighth to tie it at
8.

After Juan Rincon walked two of the first three batters in the
inning, J.C. Romero walked two straight batters to force home a
run.

Monroe hit an RBI single and Pena followed by grounding a tying,
two-run single past diving second baseman Alex Prieto.

Game notes
Mientkiewicz played after missing three games with a sore
left wrist. ... Radke walked Inge in the fourth, snapping a streak
of 132 batters without a walk.