Twins Catch Tigers to Win AL Central

Monday, October 2nd 2006, 6:30 am
By: News On 6

Joe Mauer came away with a pair of crowns. Jim Leyland came up just short. And Devern Hansack got a good head start on 2007.

The final day of the regular season was a key one in the American League: The Minnesota Twins overtook Leyland's sagging Detroit Tigers to win the Central title, setting both AL playoff matchups.

Mauer did his part for the Twins, and himself. He went 2-4 and became the first AL catcher to win the batting title, finishing at .347 and beating out Yankees star Derek Jeter by 4 points.

``I said it wasn't bothering me, but I was lying to you guys most of the time,'' Mauer said. ``It was a lot of pressure.''

About 35 minutes after the Twins beat Chicago 5-1, a crowd of 30,000 that stuck around the Metrodome saw what it wanted. The fans watched on the scoreboard as the Tigers lost to Kansas City 10-8 in 12 innings, leaving Detroit with the wild card slot.

Needing 1 more victory to clinch the division, the Tigers lost their final 5 games of the season. Detroit blew an early 6 run lead, wasted a bases loaded threat in the 11th and got swept at home by the Royals in a 3 game series for the first time since 1980.

``I'm going to buy the whole Kansas City team a bottle of champagne!'' Twins center fielder Torii Hunter said. ``Every one of them! Dom Perignon.''

The outcome left Minnesota at home for Game 1 of the playoffs against Oakland on Tuesday. The Tigers will be at Yankee Stadium to face Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and New York's other big hitters Tuesday night.

``It's a lot easier to beat them 3 out of 5 than 4 out of 7,'' Leyland said. ``We needed our pitchers to give us more than we got in the last 5 days. If we keep pitching like this, nothing else is going to matter.''

Hansack provided the pitching excitement of the day. He threw no hit ball for 5 innings before the game was called because of rain, giving Boston a 9-0 win over Baltimore, but not giving the Red Sox rookie official credit for a no hitter.

``I wasn't disappointed because nobody can stop the rain,'' he said.

In September 1991, a committee chaired by then commissioner Fay Vincent changed rules that eliminated games of fewer than 9 innings from counting as no hitters, wiping nearly 50 of them off the books. To stand, pitchers must allow no hits in a complete game that goes at least 9 innings.

In only his second major league outing, Hansack became the 9th AL pitcher to allow no hits in a complete game of fewer than 9 innings.

Hansack has been in and out of baseball for a couple of years, and worked as a lobsterman at times. He's hoping the nice finish will lead to an invitation to spring training next season.

``I was very excited, surprised, because I was out of baseball so long,'' said Hansack, who pitched in Houston's system in 2002 and 2003. ``This is my opportunity. I can't mess it up.''

In other AL games, Oakland beat Los Angeles 11-10 in 10 innings, Toronto topped New York 7-3, Cleveland defeated Tampa Bay 6-3 and Seattle beat Texas 3-2.

Royals 10, Tigers 8, 12 innings

At Detroit, All-Star starter Kenny Rogers made his first relief appearance since 2003 and gave up 2 runs in the 12th that cost the Tigers.

Nate Robertson will start for Detroit in Game 1 of the playoffs, rookie Justin Verlander will pitch Game 2 and Rogers (17-8) is set to go in Game 3.

The Tigers loaded the bases with 1 out in the 11th, but the last place Royals escaped as Brandon Inge and Curtis Granderson struck out. Jimmy Gobble (4-6) got the win.

Twins 5, White Sox 1

At Minneapolis, the Twins won their 4th division title in 5 years and capped a comeback that saw them trailing Detroit by 12 games in mid-July.

Carlos Silva (11-15) cruised through 5 1-3 innings, facing a Chicago lineup that was missing Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and Joe Crede.

Javier Vazquez (11-12) took the loss as the White Sox finished 90-72 and in the 3rd place, a year after winning the World Series.

Blue Jays 7, Yankees 5

At New York, Jeter singled his first time up and pulled within .0005 of Mauer for the batting lead. But he wound up 1-for-5 and fell back.

After Jeter went out to shortstop for the 9th, acting manager Bernie Williams sent Andy Cannizaro out to replace him. Jeter walked off to a standing ovation.

Toronto's Adam Lind hit a 2 run, 2 out homer off Kyle Farnsworth (3-6) in the 9th Inning. Josh Towers (2-10) was the winner and Scott Downs got his first save.

The Blue Jays came in 2nd in the AL East at 87-75, ending a run of 8 straight 2nd place finishes by Boston.

Athletics 11, Angels 10, 10 innings

At Anaheim,California, reliever Brendan Donnelly's throwing error let the go ahead run score in the 10th inning, and Oakland avoided being swept in a season ending 4 game series.

The A's lost 6 of their last 9 games. As for the playoffs, they went 4-6 against the Twins this season, including 1-5 at the Metrodome.

Chad Gaudin (4-2) won and Ron Flores got his first major league save. Chris Bootcheck (0-1) took the loss.

Red Sox 9, Orioles 0

At Fenway Park, the 2006 regular season came to an end when the game was called because of rain.

Hansack (1-1) faced the minimum of 15 batters, allowing only Fernando Tatis to reach on a walk with 1 out in the 2nd inning. Hansack struck out 6, and none of the Baltimore batters came close to a hit.

Mike Lowell hit his 20th home run, connecting off Hayden Penn (0-4).

Indians 6, Devil Rays 3

At Cleveland, Cliff Lee pitched the first 9 inning complete game of his career and the Indians completed a 4 game sweep.

Lee (14-11) outpitched Jason Hammel (0-6). Tampa Bay went 3-36 on the road after July 1, the worst mark over that span in major league history.

Mariners 3, Rangers 2

At Seattle, Ichiro Suzuki got 2 hits for the Mariners and wound up with 224, the most in the majors.

Jake Woods (7-4) got the win and J.J Putz closed for his 36th save in 43 chances. Robinson Tejeda (5-5) took the loss.