Tigers avert infamy
September 29, 2003
AFP - Sep 28, 9:00 pm EDT
DETROIT, United States (AFP) - Dmitri Young and the Detroit Tigers were determined not to live the rest of their lives in infamy.
Young collected three hits while displaying a competitive fire and Mike Maroth pitched six solid innings as the Tigers avoided tying the major league single-season loss record with a 9-4 triumph over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday, the final day of the major league baseball season.
In danger of joining the 1962 New York Mets as the only teams in major league history to lose 120 games, the Tigers (43-119) built on their stunning comeback Saturday and avoided the record books.
"There's definitely a sense of relief," Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. "But to be honest with you, I also thought about if it happened, how different would I really feel? And I keep coming back with, not a whole lot of difference. ... I look at it as 119, 120, what really is the difference except for the magnitude of some attention?"
"The '62 Mets just has a ring (to it) as compared to the '03 Tigers," right fielder Bobby Higginson said. "It just doesn't sound right. We avoided it, we can enjoy it for a day, but we still have to realize that we played a lot of bad baseball this year."
One of the few offensive threats in the Tigers' lineup, Young did his best to get his team fired up. After leading off the fourth inning with a single, he tagged up on Craig Monroe's flyout and advanced with a head-first dive.
Young may have been a bit too aggressive, as he was picked off second to end the inning.
But Young ignited Detroit's most productive inning of the season, stroking an RBI single in the sixth and taking second on a throwing error.
Monroe followed with his 23rd home run and after returning to the dugout, Young exhibited his excitement by celebrating with his teammates.
"All we wanted to do was win the game, and we did that," Young said. "We're not going to worry about what people say about our record. We got it together down the stretch and played some top-notch baseball."
"They were playing with so much fire over these last few games," Twins designated hitter Mike Ryan said. "They knew how much they had to play for and they really went for it."
The Tigers crossed the plate seven times on eight hits in the sixth, their most impressive inning in a dismal season.
"The Tigers played their tails off this weekend," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They have been on a mission for this whole series and they got what they needed. Good for them. The key for them is to take the same step that we did and be able to put that kind of effort for a whole season."
Maroth (9-21), who became the first pitcher to lose 20 games since Brian Kingman in 1980, allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings. The lefthander, who walked one and struck out two, notched his third win in four starts.
"It's been a roller-coaster year and we've been on more downs than ups, but I tell you what, we finished on probably our biggest up of the year," Maroth said. "That's a good thing. A lot of people are going to go into the offseason on a positive note."
"I was thinking of it more as a Tiger win, but in all honesty, it should be stated that he should be the guy that got this last win because he's taken the brunt of this all year and he has stood there like a man," Trammell said.
The Twins head into their American League Division Series against the New York Yankees on Tuesday losers of three of their last four games.
Following the victory, the Tigers were greeted with a standing ovation as they headed off the field.
"It was just unbelievable to have them all standing up," Monroe said. "That just showed that baseball is definitely not dead in Detroit. ... They didn't give up on us. They were backing us up, nobody was really booing us and chanting and telling us we (stink).
"I'm going to commend them. The way they welcomed me, especially in left field, I can't wait to come back here."
Updated on Monday, Sep 29, 2003 1:00 am EDT
The record is safe for at least 1 more year.