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Tigers blow lead, fail to clinch playoff berth

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Tigers' march toward the playoffs was slowed by a Minnesota Twins comeback Monday.

The Twins erased a late three-run deficit, then won 4-3 on a Josmil Pinto walk-off single in the 11th inning at Target Field.

The Tigers could have wrapped up a postseason berth with a win.

Detroit's magic number for clinching the American League Central title remains two. The second-place Cleveland Indians, who were idle Monday, trail by 4 1/2 games. Cleveland has five games left; Detroit has six.

Down 3-0 in the eighth, Minnesota scored twice in the eighth before tying the game in the ninth on Brian Dozier's homer.

Dozier led off the 11th with a single to left, moved to second on a wild pitch by Luke Putkonen (1-2), then scored on Pinto's rocket to right.

Minnesota's rally began in the eighth. Jose Vargas walked Clete Thomas, and Eduardo Escobar hit an RBI double to the left field wall. Pinch hitter Ryan Doumit doubled to right, scoring Escobar, and the Twins were in the game.

In the ninth, Dozier, then 0-for-4 on the evening, hit his 18th homer of the season over the left field fence to tie the game against Tigers closer Joaquin Benoit.

"I was trying to get ahead and got ahead with the first pitch," Dozier said. "And (Benoit) came out with a fastball and I put us into extra innings. We've got (Glen) Perkins on the mound going into extra innings, that's pretty good for us."

Benoit was unable to complete a five-out save.

"I just felt that was the way to go," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of using Benoit in both the eighth and ninth innings. "I hate to ask him to get five outs, obviously, but I felt like we had to stop it right then and hopefully get though the ninth without many pitches. But we felt like he had to get an important out or two when we needed it. We were in trouble, so we went to him and he got us out of it. Of course, then Dozier hit the ball out of the ballpark to tie it up."

Minnesota won despite getting shut down by Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who struck out 12 in a playoff-ready performance. Verlander left with a 1-0 lead after six innings. He threw 107 pitches, giving up six hits and three walks.

Verlander was practically unhittable with his fastball clocked in the high 90s and a nasty curve fooling the Twins in the early going.

"(We went) toe to toe with Verlander," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He was just filthy, He was unbelievable. I thought there was going to be records set -- eight strikeouts in three innings. I was going, 'Oh, Chrysler.'"

Verlander struck out 10 of the first 15 batters he faced, five of them looking, and his manager said it was because of his curveball.

"I think he got (his breaking ball) going pretty good as the game went on," Leyland said. "I thought he really had a good curveball as the game went on. That turned out to be a big pitch for him. He shut them down pretty good."

The Twins, who watched the Oakland A's clinch the American League West on Sunday, refused to watch another team celebrate, as the Tigers would have clinched a playoff berth with a win.

Minnesota starter Mike Pelfrey lasted six innings, giving up one run on six hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

"He threw the ball inside pretty good, I thought," Leyland said. "I thought he pitched very well. He changed his pitches up a little bit on us, and he also threw pretty good inside to our right handed hitters."

Casey Fien relieved Pelfrey in the seventh and gave up Torii Hunter's second double of the night. Miguel Cabrera drove in Hunter with a single. After Prince Fielder singled to right, Victor Martinez doubled to right, driving in Cabrera for a 3-0 Detroit lead.

However, the Twins rallied and gave Gardenhire his 998th career victory.

Anthony Swarzak (3-2) pitched a scoreless 11th to earn the win.

NOTES: The Twins announced before the game that C Joe Mauer was shut down for the remainder of the season. Mauer has been out of the lineup since Aug. 20, suffering from a concussion and related symptoms. ... Minnesota OF Oswaldo Arcia was scratched due to a bruised knee suffered in pregame warm-ups. ... Verlander reached 200 strikeouts on the season, his fifth consecutive season with at least 200 K's. ... The Tigers entered the game leading the American League with 1,580 hits, then added 10 to their total. The Twins collected 14 hits on the night.
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