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October 1, 2009

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Tigers maintain 2-game lead

THE Tigers restored their two-game lead over Minnesota in the American League Central after a workhorse effort from pitcher Justin Verlander guided them to a 6-5 win in the second game of a doubleheader in Detroit on Tuesday.

The Twins took the earlier game 3-2 to cut Detroit's lead in the division to one, but Verlander logged eight innings and closer Fernando Rodney allowed one run and survived a shaky ninth for his 36th save of the year.

The Twins (82-75) trailed 0-5 in the fifth but rallied with two runs in both the sixth and eighth innings against Verlander, who struck out eight on the way to his career best-tying 18th win of the season.

"We love when (Verlander) is out there. He's been a bulldog for us and when he's pitching you're always going to have a chance to win," Detroit third baseman Brandon Inge told reporters.

"We know the standings and that Minnesota is going to be in it. This is about as much of a playoff game as you're going to get in the regular season."

The Tigers held a commanding seven-game division lead on September 6 but the red-hot Twins have created late-season drama as Detroit tries to win its first division title since 1987.

Elsewhere in the AL, it was: Blue Jays 8, Red Sox 7; Rays 3, Orioles 1; Yankees 4, Royals 3; Angels 5, Rangers 2; and Mariners 6, Athletics 4

In the National League, it was: Rockies 7, Brewers 5; Padres 3, Dodgers 1; Phillies 7, Astros 4; Marlins 5, Braves 4; Reds 7, Cardinals 2; Nationals 4, Mets 3; Cubs 6, Pirates 0; and Giants 8, Diamondbacks 4.

In Detroit, Tuesday's late game went down to the wire when Minnesota's Nick Punto hit an RBI double in the ninth to make it a one-run game and he was standing on second when Denard Span flied out to left field to end the game.

Curtis Granderson put Detroit (84-73) up 6-4 in the eighth with his 30th home run of the year.

In the earlier game, Minnesota scored twice in the 10th inning for a dramatic 3-2 win.

Orlando Cabrera had the go-ahead single and Delmon Young added a sacrifice-fly against Detroit's Brandon Lyon in the 10th.

Granderson hit a solo homer in the bottom half of the inning to make it interesting for reliever Joe Nathan, who picked up his 45th save.

Nick Blackburn guided the Twins with seven innings pitched and just one run allowed.

"We got the first one, wanted the second one really bad but faced a really good pitcher," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire.

"This is not what we came here for today. We'll be back tomorrow, I can promise you that."

Eddie Bonine, who is 0-1 with a 4.60 ERA, will start for the Tigers today (Shanghai time) and Carl Pavano, who is 13-111 with a 4.86 ERA, will be on the mound for Minnesota. In the series finale, Detroit's Nate Robertson and Minnesota's Scott Baker will start in the game that could potentially decide the division.

If the Tigers don't take the next two games of the series, the AL Central won't be won until the weekend - or early next week - with each team closing the regular season with a three-game set.


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