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Ordonez's game-winning homer puts Tigers into World Series

Oct 15, 2006 - 12:15 AM DETROIT (Ticker) -- With one raise of his fist, Magglio Ordonez knew the Detroit Tigers were moving on to the World Series.

Ordonez belted his second homer of the game, a three-run blast in the bottom of the ninth inning, to send the Tigers into the World Series with a thrilling 6-3 victory that completed a four-game sweep of the Oakland Athletics.

After becoming the first team in history to make the postseason after losing at least 30 of their final 50 games - they actually lost 31 - the Tigers dropped the ALDS opener to the powerful New York Yankees. However, they regrouped and won three straight to dismiss the Yankees before sweeping the A's.

"Everybody doubted us from day one," Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya said. "Nobody believed that we were going to do it. We had a great managing staff, coaching staff, great players and all it was getting together and playing their heart out and having a lot of heart. It came all along and look where we're at now."

Nate Robertson pitched brilliantly in Game One's 5-1 triumph and Kenny Rogers was magnificent in Game Three's 3-0 blanking, with Detroit showing its hitting ability in between with an 8-5 victory. So perhaps it was fitting that the wild card entry closed out the series by beating the A's in a close contest that went down to the final frame.

With the game tied, 3-3, in the bottom of the ninth, Oakland closer Huston Street (0-1) - asked to pitch more than one inning for the 12th time this season - retired the first two hitters of the frame.

But Craig Monroe and ALCS MVP Placido Polanco singled, setting the stage for Ordonez, who had tied the game at 3-3 with a sixth-inning homer against A's starter Dan Haren.

The righthanded slugger belted a 1-0 fastball over the left field fence to propel the Tigers into the World Series for the first time since 1984, when they beat the San Diego Padres in five games.

"I knew it was a home run from the time that I hit it," Ordonez said. "I was really excited. I raised my arm in the air for the fans and my teammates. When you work hard for something, like we did all season, you will reach your goal."

Ordonez entered the game 6-for-28 in the postseason and 2-for-13 in the series. Street, who yielded just four homers during the regular season, surrendered two blasts in the ALCS alone.

"I told my players, they can't let this series diminish what they did this year," A's manager Ken Macha said. "The guys played their tails off and that's all you can ask."

Wilfredo Ledezma (1-0) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings to get the win.

"I'm just extremely happy for (owners) Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "They've given so much to the Tigers and the city of Detroit. And to the fans who have been so patient for the last 13 years, this is yours."

Detroit will host Game One next Saturday against the winner of the NLCS between the New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals.

"This is what we wanted to accomplish right now, just to get to the World Series," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "It's a great feeling, but now we have to set our sights higher."

Detroit had not been to the postseason since 1987, had posted 12 consecutive losing seasons until winning 95 games this season and was just three years removed from an AL-record 119 losses.

"This is a special group of guys," Monroe said. "Together we all did it because we all came together and we all believed and there's a lot of respect from every guy to each guy to know that without each other, we couldn't have gotten here. We came together and got it done."

Polanco had three hits in the game and went 9-for-17 in the series.

"This is by far the the best moment of my career," Polanco said. "It's feels great to win, to go to the World Series. I know that we have one more to go, but this is very, very special for me."

Oakland looked early like it would extend the series to a fifth game, jumping on Detroit starter Jeremy Bonderman.

Coming off an outstanding performance in decisive Game Four of the ALDS against the New York Yankees, Bonderman was scored upon in the first inning for just the second time in his last 12 starts. Milton Bradley and Eric Chavez reached the righthander for RBI doubles in the first and Jay Payton drilled his first homer of the postseason in the fourth for a 3-0 lead.

"He kept us in the game and I tell you, against that team, they came out really tough," Rogers said. "I knew he was going to have the most difficult game. It's always that hard. I'm happy for him because this game can't do anything but build his confidence."

After being denied through the first four innings by Haren, who struck out seven featuring an unhittable split-finger fastball, the Tigers broke through in the fifth. Inge led off by reaching second on an infield single, combined with a throwing error by third baseman Chavez.

Inge advanced on a groundout and scored when speedy Curtis Granderson slapped an outside pitch into right-center field and legged out a double.

Monroe followed with a hard liner that just got under the glove of a diving Payton in left field for an RBI double. Ordonez tied the game when he lined the first pitch of the sixth inning - a hanging breaking ball - into the left field seats for his second homer this postseason.

Haren, who left one batter later, yielded three runs, seven hits and two walks in five-plus innings.

Bonderman exited with two outs and a runner on first in the seventh after allowing three runs, six hits and a pair of walks with three strikeouts.

After surrendering a long foul ball that barely missed being a home run on a 3-1 offering, Jamie Walker struck out Mark Kotsay on a breaking ball to end the seventh.

The Tigers squandered a chance in their half of the frame when Carlos Guillen bounced into an inning-ending double play against Street, who was brought in earlier than usual as Macha felt desperation setting in.

Oakland failed to take advantage of an opportunity in the eighth after Detroit reliever Jason Grilli walked the bases loaded on 12 pitches with two outs. But Ledezma entered and got Marco Scutaro on a foul out to escape the mess.

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