for this game

Tigers blow big lead, division; will head to New York

Oct 1, 2006 - 10:03 PM DETROIT (Ticker) -- Instead of enjoying a nice dinner, getting two good nights' sleep and opening the postseason at home, the Detroit Tigers' unlikely collapse has them packing their bags for the Big Apple.

Needing only a win against the lowly Kansas City Royals to secure their first American League Central Division title in 19 years, the Tigers squandered an early six-run lead before Kenny Rogers yielded two runs in the 12th inning en route to a 10-8 loss, completing a stunning three-game sweep.

Now, instead of opening at home against the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday, Detroit will travel to New York to play the dangerous New York Yankees.

"We didn't hit smart and we didn't pitch worth a damn for four of the last five days," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I'm not mad or upset with anyone - I love this team - but that's the truth.

"This kind of thing happens to every team - there is a letdown when you clinch. It happened to us and the Twins. That's not an excuse, but it is hard to keep up that intensity after you know you are in."

Sunday's collapse was symbolic of the past 10 weeks for the Tigers. They were 76-36 on August 9 before their season started to unravel. The Tigers had lost 28 of their previous 47 games heading into the final weekend against the Royals, a team they had beaten 14 of 15 times this season.

"Tomorrow we start a new season," Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen said. "I'm never disappointed in my teammates or my team because this team hasn't gone to the playoffs for 20 years and the last 3-4 years we've been a losing team. This year everything turned around and we're better this year."

Detroit lost the series opener, blowing a ninth-inning lead in an 11-inning, 9-7 defeat, and Kansas City put up seven runs in the first inning Saturday in a 9-6 win.

However, needing a win Sunday or a Minnesota loss to wrap up their first division title since 1987, the Tigers took a 6-0 lead in the third frame on the strength of two hits and two RBI by Ivan Rodriguez and a two-run homer by Brandon Inge off Odalis Perez.

"I think everyone of us here, we know what we left out there," Tigers pitcher Kenny Rogers said. "As disappointing as it is, we've got to pick up the pieces. I don't think anyone should feel good, that's for sure."

But the Royals, who earlier this week reached 100 losses for a third straight season, did not quit. Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman was reached for two runs in the fourth and two more in the fifth before getting relieved.

"We had a chance to win that game," Bonderman said. "I didn't come out and pitch well. A six-run lead and you can't go more than 4 1/3 or whatever, it's pretty disappointing. I let these guys down. No other explanations for it. I didn't go out and pitch well enough to get the 'W'."

Detroit took a 7-4 edge into the eighth before Fernando Rodney completely fell apart, allowing four runs to give Kansas City the lead before closer Todd Jones came on and got out of that mess.

"This team hasn't reached .500 in years," Jones said. "Now, we make the playoffs and we can't even enjoy it. We made our bed and now we have to lie in it."

The Tigers drew even in the bottom half when pinch hitter Matt Stairs belted a prodigious blast into the right field seats off Scott Dohmann for his 13th homer of the season and second since joining the club off waivers from Texas.

The Tigers knew they needed to win the contest to take the division title in the 11th inning when the scoreboard posted Minnesota's 5-1 victory over Chicago, but they squandered a bases-loaded, one-out opportunity when Inge and Curtis Granderson struck out.

"It's interesting," Granderson said. "You look at what happened last time we were there (KC), they turned it around on us. You've got to tip your cap, they outhit us, they outplayed us and ended up getting the sweep when it's all said and done."

The collapse was completed in the next frame. Angel Berroa led off with an infield single and Angel Sanchez added a one-out single. After Joey Gathright drew a walk, Esteban German singled home a run. Following a fielder's choice, Rogers (17-8) walked Emil Brown to force in another run.

"It was neat too see our kids play and fight hard," acting Royals manager Bill Doran said. "Maybe they can learn something and grow from what they did this weekend that will help them in the future."

Jimmy Gobble (4-6) pitched 1 1/3 innings to pick up the win.

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