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Published: Monday, 9/29/2003

Tigers avoid tying Mets' mark by beating Twins

Manager Alan Trammell waves to loyal Tigers fans who showed more support than disgust during the final week. Manager Alan Trammell waves to loyal Tigers fans who showed more support than disgust during the final week.

DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers won a laugher over Minnesota at Comerica Park yesterday, and that's news. After all, there haven't been many laughers for the Tigers in 2003.

The victory, Detroit's fifth in the last six games, kept the Tigers from losing their 120th game of the season and tying the 1962 New York Mets for the most losses in modern-day major league history.

That was the second-best news of the day. Here's the best: The Detroit Tigers' 2003 season can't get any worse than this.

That's because it's over.

Detroit's 10th consecutive losing season ended with a 9-4 victory over the Twins in front of 18,959 fans at Comerica Park. The Tigers finished with a 43-119 record, which was good for plenty of history on its own since it was the worst in the 103-year history of the franchise and the worst in American League history.

But the Tigers' seven-run sixth inning assured that more inglorious history wouldn't be made, much to the satisfaction of manager Alan Trammell and his team. After the final out the Tigers met on the infield grass in a celebration that was a mixture of handshakes and hugs, a blend of equal parts joy and relief.

Then in the hall leading to Trammell's office the Tigers' first-year skipper exchanged hugs with Hall of Famer Al Kaline, now a special assistant to team president and general manager Dave Dombrowski.

“It's a good feeling when you win. It never gets old, that's for sure,” Trammell said while shaking Kaline's hand.

A fan at Comerica Park backs manager Alan Trammell and the Tigers. A fan at Comerica Park backs manager Alan Trammell and the Tigers.

Detroit's sixth-inning explosion featured eight hits, including a long, two-run homer to left by Craig Monroe and doubles by Alex Sanchez and Bobby Higginson. Sprinkle in a throwing error by Minnesota and the result was the team's highest single-inning run and hit output of the season.

“The way this team responded in the last week, I'm proud of them,” Trammell said. “I think they bonded a little bit. You wonder at times if the message was getting through, but after this week I know the message is getting through.”

The seven-run outburst made a winner of starter Mike Maroth, who limited the Twins to eight hits and a pair of runs in six innings. Maroth, who finished with a 9-21 record, said the last week puts a good taste in his mouth after a bitter season.

“A week ago we were losing games one after another, and it was [a feeling of] let's just finish this season and get it over with,” Maroth said. “But it's amazing what this team has done in its last six games. This will be good to take into the off-season. It's not as hard to look at now as it would have been otherwise.”

All of the Tigers marveled at how the team pulled together in the season's final week to avoid the losing streak. Maroth thought a similar string of success earlier in the season might have helped Detroit avoid 119 losses.

“I think if we had done this at the beginning of the year, maybe it would have turned things around,” he said. “This gave us a little taste to win and have fun, and it helped us play with confidence.”

Trammell said in his mind there really was no difference between 119 and 120 losses, which means it's still going to be hard for him to look at the 2003 season.

“We can't get away from that because everyone is talking about 120,” Trammell said before the game. “I don't like it, but I can't change it. I can't say it doesn't make a bit of difference, but it doesn't make a lot of difference. It has been a bad year.

“We had a lot of things not go our way. It has been one of the toughest seasons anyone could imagine, but we weathered it. When we lost 10 straight [a week ago] it didn't look good [for us to avoid 120 losses], but that's just the way this year has been.

“It has never looked good.”

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