Tigers 9, Twins 4

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DETROIT (AP)—Mike Maroth and the Detroit Tigers left the field for the final time feeling like winners.

The Tigers avoided the 1962 New York Mets’ modern-day record for losses, finishing their best six-game stretch of the season with a 9-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

“Believe it or not, I can look back on this year with a smile on my face because of how this season ended,” said Maroth, the first pitcher since 1980 to lose at least 20 games.

Detroit (43-119) used a seven-run sixth inning to win for the fifth time in six games, allowing the expansion Mets (40-120) to keep the unwanted distinction of having the most losses since 1900.

“We’re not going to worry about what people say about our record,” Dmitri Young said. “We got it together down the stretch and played some top-notch baseball. I’m leaving here happy. The only sad thing is we finally got rolling as a team and now we are breaking up for the winter.”

With the 18,959 fans at Comerica Park standing and cheering, and Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration” playing after the final out, the Tigers players hugged each other on the field as the scoreboard flashed “Victory!”

Maroth (9-21) gave up two runs on eight hits and a walk to win for the third time in four starts.

“Not too long ago, everybody thought we were going to break the record, but we showed what we were made of as people and players,” Maroth said.

Detroit, which came back from an eight-run deficit the previous night, hadn’t scored more than five runs or had six hits in an inning this season until its burst in the sixth.

Young hit the go-ahead single, and Craig Monroe followed with a two-run homer, a 415-foot shot to left, as eight of the first nine Tigers got hits. They received a standing ovation after their big inning.

It seemed inevitable that the Tigers would reach the mark they wanted no part of when their 10th straight setback on Sep. 22 broke Philadelphia’s AL record of 117 losses.

“To have that off our back, it’s a relief,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said.

As reporters from around the country descended on Detroit to record history, the Tigers suddenly started playing well.

“They were going to bury us, but it didn’t happen,” Carlos Pena said.

Detroit came back from an eight-run hole for the first time since 1965 to beat the Twins 9-8 on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth Saturday night. Shane Halter’s walk-off homer in the 11th gave the Tigers a 5-4 win Thursday night.

The Tigers’ strong finish was against the Twins, who didn’t play their regulars for an entire game after clinching their second straight AL Central title Tuesday.

Minnesota (90-72) started just four of its everyday players Sunday and by the seventh, all of them were resting for the AL division series against the New York Yankees.

“We’ve been pointing ourselves for Tuesday since we clinched,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “The physical rest was good for our guys, but the important thing was the mental break.

“The Tigers played their tails off this weekend. They have been on a mission for this whole series and they got what they needed. Good for them.”

Adam Johnson (0-1) allowed six runs on six hits and got only one out in relief.

The Twins had a chance to cut into Detroit’s lead in the seventh with two on and one out, but the Tigers tied a franchise record with their 194th double play.

Detroit finished 47 games behind the Twins in the division and 20 behind Tampa Bay, baseball’s next-worst team.

“Our record is not very good, but you’ve seen a team that showed some fight,” Trammell said. “That’s what I’m going to remember most about thisseason.

Notes

Trammell and his entire coaching staff will return for the 2004 season. … Chris Gomez, a former Tiger, hit his first homer since Aug. 22, 2002. … Young, Detroit’s only All-Star, finished the season with a 10-game hitting streak, a career-high 29 homers and a .297 batting average … The Tigers also had 194 double plays in 1950. … Bobby Higginson’s 14th homer gave Detroit a1-0 lead.

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