Inside Pitch: Big Win in Motown

Huff's three run homer tied it in the 9th

With the race for the AL Central crown still far from over, the Tigers picked up a big come-from-behind 6-5 win in ten innings over the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday night.

INSIDE PITCH

Manager Jim Leyland keeps insisting the AL Central race is going right down to the end of the season.

He just might be right, even though the Tigers hold a 5-1/2-game lead with less than three weeks to go.

The Tigers and runner-up Minnesota both pulled out last-licks victories Monday night, the Tigers in the 10th and the Twins in the ninth.

They meet this weekend in Minnesota and again in Detroit in the last week of the season.

But first there's the little matter of Kansas City, which swept the Tigers last week and has favorable pitching match-ups for the three-game set that begins Tuesday night.

Robinson Tejeda dominated the Tigers last week. Tuesday he will face Jarrod Washburn, who has turned in just one solid start of the seven he has made for the Tigers. Washburn had trouble keeping the ball down in his last start. Before that he missed a start because the Tigers hoped it would calm down a sore left knee.

The Royals' Lenny DiNardo handcuffed the Tigers in his previous start. The Tigers have picked Eddie Bonine to pitch Wednesday and regularly in the rotation through the end of the season.

The Tigers have Edwin Jackson on tap for Thursday but it will be a battle of pitchers who receive little run support as the Royals pitch Zach Greinke.

The Tigers always have trouble in Minnesota. They have Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello lined up for the first two games.

TIGERS 6, BLUE JAYS 5 (10 innings): 3B Brandon Inge scored from second base Monday night when SS Marco Scutaro muffed the throw from first on C Alex Avila's potential double-play grounder to first with one out in the bottom of the 10th.

Scutaro, whose miscue in the ninth opened the door for the Tigers to tie the score, might have lost sight of the ball. He fanned on the throw with the ball trickling into short left field while Inge alertly bounced home after rounding third. Earlier, Aubrey Huff hit a dramatic three-run home run in the ninth to tie the score at 5-5 and force extra innings.

RHP Justin Verlander was frustrated in his second straight bid for his 17th victory. Verlander allowed all five Toronto runs in the sixth on an RBI single, a three-run home run and a solo home run. LHP Bobby Seay picked up the win. LF Ryan Raburn hit a home run leading off the game and added an RBI single in the fifth.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RF Magglio Ordonez needs just three more plate appearances to guarantee his $18 million contract for next season. He blooped a single to right and lined a single to left and remains at .500 for the month of September, 19-for-38. "Yeah, he's going to get it," said manager Jim Leyland, who probably will rest Ordonez Tuesday but certainly will have him in the lineup against a southpaw on Wednesday. "I mean, he's swinging the bat good," Leyland said. "I need him in the lineup. I'm hoping, really, he can be more of a force for us down the stretch. That would really be a boost to our offense. And I do think the ball's jumping better than it has. He's centering the ball better. I'm hoping that continues." Of Ordonez's 19 September hits, 17 are singles. He has not hit a home run since Aug. 16, and he has just one RBI this month. Ordonez has 40 RBIs for the season after averaging 115 the previous three seasons.

--RHP Fernando Rodney had a hearing on his three-game suspension Monday and it was shortened to two games, which the closer began serving immediately. He originally drew a three-game suspension and a $3,000 fine for throwing a ball into the press box Sept. 4 after struggling to his 32nd save of the season. The fine sticks. The timing of the appeal hearing might not have been accidental because Rodney had pitched three straight games and manager Jim Leyland said Sunday he probably would not be available to close Monday anyway. Rodney made his case by phone and repeated his argument that he didn't intend to throw the ball into the press box and that he was sorry he did.

--RHP Rick Porcello keeps getting stronger when he should be wearing out. Porcello stopped a five-game Detroit losing streak Sunday with six innings of four-hit, two-run ball to win his 13th game of the season -- most by a 20-year-old since RHP Dwight Gooden won 24 in 1985. He's gone more to his four-seam fastball as the season has worn along and is hitting 95-97 mph with it, a nice complement to his 90-92 mph two-seam sinker and a sharp-biting slider (plus a changeup). "About this time of year everybody talks about people getting tired," manager Jim Leyland said. "He might be just getting started fresh. He had a lot of time off. We're hoping with everything that's gone on (with our rotation) he'll be strong the last three weeks or so. He's been a blessing for us." Porcello is 4-1 with a 3.41 ERA in nine starts since Aug. 1.

BY THE NUMBERS: 13 -- Games remaining against Minnesota and the Chicago White Sox for Detroit in its final 16 games of the season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This pennant race has just started. Anybody who doesn't believe that is crazy -- and anybody who starts believing how good they've been, they're crazy, too, because the baseball gods will bite you. Just keep your mouth shut and play the game. Don't fall for anything, don't listen to it, just concentrate on getting ready to play." -- Manager Jim Leyland, discussing the state of the Tigers after they had been swept by the Kansas City Royals last week.

ROSTER REPORT

--PH Aubrey Huff hit what he termed maybe the biggest home run of his career Monday night, a three-run pinch-hit blast to right in the bottom of the ninth inning for a 5-5 tie in a game the Tigers won in 10 innings. "I told Mac (hitting coach Lloyd McClendon) the inning before, if two guys got on, I was going to hit Huff," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's what you're hoping for. It doesn't happen very often." An error and a pinch-hit single by C Alex Avila put two runners on for Huff, who hit for SS Ramon Santiago. "I've been in the league for nine years now," Huff said, "and I've hit a lot of home runs. That one for sure was probably the best in my career ever. It felt like my first one."

--C Alex Avila figured in both late-inning rallies Monday night. He got a pinch-hit single in the ninth to put two runners on for PH Aubrey Huff's game-tying home run. Then, after two walks started the 10th, Avila pulled a low breaking ball to first and the shortstop muffed the throw on the potential inning-ending double-play grounder, allowing the winning run to score.

--RHP Justin Verlander has made two tries for his 17th win of the season now and fallen short both times. He gave up one run in his previous start but the Tigers didn't score any while he was on the mound. Monday night he was scintillating for five innings but gave up five runs to Toronto in the sixth. "A couple of poor pitch selections," Verlander said. "But we won the game. I've said before, my numbers I could care less about." Verlander allowed 10 hits for only the second start this season. He didn't walk a batter and fanned nine, including two in a row when the Blue Jays put runners on first and third with nobody out in the fifth.

--RHP Ryan Perry looked better than recent appearances in his two-thirds of an inning of work Monday night. He opened the 10th with a strikeout on a slider in the dirt, gave up a single on a fastball and then got a fly out after falling behind in the count, 2-0. His velocity was back up to the upper 90s and his slider showed good movement. He had been erratic recently.

--SS Brent Dlugach made his first big-league appearance in the field Monday night -- and couldn't find the handle on the first ground ball hit at him. Dlugach was inserted for the 10th inning after manager Jim Leyland pinch hit for both of his other shortstops. SS Adam Everett started and was pinch hit for by SS Ramon Santiago, who was pinch hit for by PH Aubrey Huff in the ninth. Huff's three-run home run tied the score and made an extra inning necessary. With one out, Dlugach went to his right and tried to backhand a grounder, which skipped off his glove into left field. It was ruled a hit.

--LF Ryan Raburn hurt his right knee mid-game Monday night, putting a damper on an otherwise good performance. Raburn opened the game with a home run to left and added an RBI single to center in the fifth. But he tried in vain to catch a foul ball in the stands and his right knee hit the concrete at the base of the wall as he was sliding. Raburn remained in the game until RF Clete Thomas pinch-hit for him in the seventh. Raburn is day-to-day. He probably wasn't scheduled to play again until Wednesday against Kansas City LHP Lenny DiNardo.

--RHP Jeremy Bonderman pitched a scoreless inning that wasn't as sharp as it looked in the box score. Bonderman allowed a hit in his inning of work but the runner was erased on a hit-and-run rocket to the shortstop. He got the final out on a sharp fly ball to center. Bonderman was consistently at 91-to-92 mph with his fastball and topped out once at 94.

MEDICAL WATCH:

OF Ryan Raburn (bruised right knee) left the Sept. 14 game shortly after sliding into the outfield wall chasing a foul ball. He is day to day.

LHP Nate Robertson (pelvic inflammation) left the Sept. 11 game in the fourth inning. He lost his spot in the rotation and will pitch out of the bullpen when he returns to action.

LHP Jarrod Washburn (sore left knee) missed his Sept. 5 start. He returned to start Sept. 10.

RHP Alfredo Figaro (sprained right wrist) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 28. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Erie on Aug. 24, but he was shut down for the year when the minor league season ended.

LHP Dontrelle Willis (anxiety disorder) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 15. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Toledo on Aug. 19, but he was shut down for the year when the minor league season ended.

INF Michael Hollimon (shoulder surgery) was recalled from the minors and placed on the 60-day disabled list Sept. 1.

1B/3B Jeff Larish (right wrist surgery) was recalled from the minors and placed on the 60-day disabled list Sept. 5.

RHP Joel Zumaya (stress fracture in right shoulder) went on the 15-day disabled list July 18, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on Aug. 17. He had two cortisone shots to reduce pain and swelling and resumed throwing in late July. He then had a setback, and he had season-ending surgery Aug. 21.

C Matt Treanor (torn labrum in right hip) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to April 24, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 4. He had surgery April 30, and he is likely out for the season.

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