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Tigers' bullpen squanders big lead in 11-inning loss to Royals

Sep 30, 2006 - 3:09 AM DETROIT (Ticker) -- The Detroit Tigers picked a horrific time to blow a five-run lead to the worst team in baseball.

Jamie Walker surrendered three homers in the 11th inning as the Tigers' bullpen was torched for seven runs en route to a 9-7 defeat to the lowly Kansas City Royals.

Minnesota's 4-3 loss against the Chicago White Sox earlier Friday left Detroit (95-65) tied for the top spot in the American League Central Division, which took some of the sting out of the defeat.

"Sure it does," Tigers closer Todd Jones said. "We're obviously trying to win as many games as we can. So when they lose, try to take advantage of it. But if you stumble, you're kind of hoping they stumble too."

But Detroit hardly has anything to smile about as the team suffered one of its worst losses of the season. If the teams finish in a tie, the Tigers win the division title because they captured the season series against the Twins.

The Tigers held a 5-0 cushion after three innings and still were clinging to a three-run lead in the seventh. Relievers Jason Grilli, Joel Zumaya and Jones allowed runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, to allow Kansas City to tie the contest.

"We didn't add on runs for the longest time. We kind of stalled out," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "They kept pecking away at the bullpen a little bit. We just didn't hold on to it."

In the 11th, Walker (0-1) surrendered back-to-back homers to Emil Brown and rookie Paul Phillips to open the frame. Jeff Keppinger added a two-run blast later in the inning to give the Royals a 9-5 lead.

"I'm mad at myself right now," Walker said. "I want to beat myself up."

"When you're down five runs, you keep edging back and trying to get one run here, two runs there, until you get back into it," Phillips said. "We did that until the ninth inning and we ended up getting the one run we needed to tie."

Detroit received a two-run single from Carlos Guillen in the 11th. But with two runners on, Ivan Rodriguez hit into a game-ending double play to seal the Tigers' third straight loss.

Zack Greinke (1-0) tossed three scoreless innings to pick up the win.

"Things worked out and they deserve it," said Royals bench coach Billy Doran, the interim manager in place of Buddy Bell, who had a cancerous growth removed from his left tonsil on September 22. "It's nice to see them smile. We'll enjoy this one."

The defeats by Minnesota and Detroit helped clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason for the New York Yankees.

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