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Tigers use nine-run second to clinch postseason berth

Sep 24, 2006 - 9:30 PM KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Ticker) -- After a long absence, the Detroit Tigers are back in the postseason.

Craig Monroe and Brandon Inge homered during a nine-run second inning as the Tigers clinched their first postseason berth in 19 years with an 11-4 drubbing of the listless Kansas City Royals.

Matt Stairs also homered and Monroe drove in three runs for Detroit (94-62), which remained 1 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota for the top spot in the American League Central Division.

The victory was especially emotional for Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who grew up in Toledo as a Tigers fan.

"I've waited a long time for this, more than 40 years," Leyland said. "I'm just thankful for the opportunity to come here and be a part of this, to see something special happen. This organization has done things unselfishly and it's good to see this happen."

An unlikely playoff team at the beginning of the season, the Tigers reached a season-high 40 games over .500 (76-36) on August 7 before cooling a bit. Detroit lost 119 games in 2003 and have not had a winning season since 1993.

"For the guys who started here in the hard times, this is so special," said pitcher Mike Maroth, who lost 21 games for the 2003 Tigers. "A lot of things happened the last couple of years and we were disappointed and frustrated. We were focused this year to not let that happen again."

The Tigers held a subdued celebration at the mound after Andrew Miller struck out fellow rookie Angel Sanchez to clinch the first postseason berth since the club won the 1987 American League East crown with a 98-64 record.

"We still want to win the division," catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "Our goal is to celebrate again in front of our home people in Detroit, when we win the division."

Using the Royals as their own punching bag all season, the Tigers improved to 14-1 against their division rivals, outscoring them, 120-56.

After scoring 10 times in the first inning off Mark Redman in Saturday's 15-4 pounding, Detroit waited until the second frame in this contest before erupting against Runelvys Hernandez (6-10).

Detroit tallied seven hits in the inning, including consecutive run-scoring singles by Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Matt Stairs. Monroe, who led off the frame with a double, then stroked his 27th homer, a three-run shot that gave the Tigers an 8-0 lead and chased Hernandez.

"I think it is important to go out there and win the division now," Stairs said, "But we will enjoy this right now. It's also important for us to get our pitching set up."

"This is great for the fans and for everybody," Guillen said. "We're all together and we have a pretty good team. We feel pretty strong."

Brandon Inge greeted Todd Wellemeyer with a first-pitch blast to center field to cap the inning.

"This is awesome," said Inge, another member of the 2003 Tigers. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."

The outburst provided starter Justin Verlander (17-9) an easy win. The righthander yielded two runs and six hits in five frames to become the first Tigers rookie to win 17 games since Mark Fidrych won 19 times in 1976.

"You can't ask for more than that," Verlander said of the offensive support. "My arm was a little tired; I was just trying to get through five."

Hernandez was charged with eight runs - one earned - and seven hits in 1 2/3 frames.

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