Royals 9, Tigers 7, 11 innings
DETROIT (AP)—The Detroit Tigers wasted an excellent opportunity to take command of the AL Central.
Minnesota’s loss lessened the blow.
Emil Brown and Paul Phillips led off the 11th inning with homers and Jeff Keppinger followed with a two-run shot to lift the Kansas City Royals to a 9-7 victory over Detroit, which had a five-run lead early in the game and was up by one run in the ninth.
Detroit (95-65) remained tied with the Twins, who lost 4-3 to Chicago, atop the AL Central with two games left, but the Tigers have the tiebreaker because they won the season series 11-8.
“When they lose, you want to take advantage of it,” said Todd Jones, who blew his fifth save in 42 opportunities. “But if you stumble, you hope they do, too.”
The Tigers had a chance to come back in the 11th when Joe Nelson loaded the bases with walks, but came away with just Carlos Guillen’s two-run single off Joel Peralta, who got Ivan Rodriguez to ground into a double play for his first career save.
“It is good to see them smiling,” said Kansas City interim manager Bill Doran, filling in for Buddy Bell. “We’ve had a lot of disappointments this year, but those guys have a lot of pride, and they aren’t going to stop.”
Curtis Granderson led off the game with a homer and hit another one in the third to spark a four-run inning to help the Tigers take a 5-0 lead, which was slowly whittled away by the suddenly scrappy Royals, who beat Detroit for just the second time in 14 games this season.
Kansas City scored two in the fifth and added a run in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to make it 5-all.
“This says a lot about this ball club. We’ve lost 100 games, but we don’t want to lose 101,” Phillips said. “We take a lot of pride in going out there and upsetting the things that are supposed to happen.”
Mike Sweeney led off the ninth with a single against Jones. With two outs and the crowd on its feet, John Buck’s single put runners on the corners and Joey Gathright’s RBI-single tied the game and quieted the fans.
“I haven’t blown too many, but this would’ve been a good one to nail down,” Jones said.
The Tigers had a good chance to win it in the bottom of the ninth when Sean Casey hit a one-out single and pinch-runner Brent Clevlen advanced to third on Magglio Ordonez’s base hit. Zack Greinke (1-0) intentionally walked Guillen to load the bases and the move worked because Rodriguez hit a short fly to center and Gathright easily threw out Clevlen at home.
“I would’ve done the same thing,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of third-base coach Gene Lamont sending Clevlen. “You hope by chance he skips it, or short hops it or it’s off line. If it is, we steal the game.”
Jamie Walker (0-1) pitched a perfect 10th, then fell apart in the 11th.
“I’d like to beat myself, but we play every day and I can’t do that,” Walker said. “That’s one thing about relief pitching—you get the five minutes of fame or 24 hours of being the scapegoat.”
Walker usually pitches an inning or less, but had a longer appearance because the bullpen will be busy Saturday with spot starter Zach Miner replacing Justin Verlander so the standout rookie can be rested for the playoffs.
“You’re asking a pitcher to do something you normally don’t ask him to do,” Leyland said. “This all stems from the fact that we had to shut down Verlander.”
Detroit starter Wilfredo Ledezma gave up two runs and six hits over five innings.
Royals starter Runelvys Hernandez gave up five runs and 10 hits over 5 1-3 innings.
Detroit OF Marcus Thames has a fever and throat infection. “It was getting better, then it got worse,” Leyland said. “Hopefully, antibiotics will knock it out.” … Bell was resting at home Friday, one day after learning that, while a growth removed from his throat on Sept. 22 was cancerous, there was no sign of cancer cells in the surrounding tissues. … Granderson had his first multihomer game. He has 19 this season. … Guillen made his 28th error on a low throw in the third. … Kansas City (60-100) is the first team since the 1977-79 Toronto Blue Jays to lose 100 games three straight seasons. … Kansas City had a season-high 19 hits and the Tigers have allowed 46 hits in the last three games. … Walker, pitching in his 55th game, was three days from breaking Scott Aldred’s major league record for most games in a season without a decision. Aldred went 0-0 in 48 games for the 1998 Devil Rays.