MINNEAPOLIS - Baseball's only real pennant race needed an extra game and extra innings to finish off a thriller that got better with every pitch.
Alexi Casilla singled home the winning run with one out in the 12th and the Minnesota Twins rallied past Detroit 6-5 in the AL Central tiebreaker last night, completing a colossal collapse for the Tigers.
"This is the most unbelievable game I've ever played or seen," Twins shortstop Orlando Cabrera said.
As Carlos Gomez streaked home from second with the winning run - well ahead of a late throw from right field - Homer Hankies spiraled around the Metrodome. The Twins celebrated and scrambled - they had 21 hours to get ready for Game 1 of the AL playoffs at Yankee Stadium against New York ace CC Sabathia.
The Tigers became the first team in major league history to blow a three-game lead with four games left. The Twins overcame a seven-game gap in the final month, went 17-4 to pull even on the final weekend and won their fifth division title in eight years.
Both team had their chances to end it earlier, and each club scored in the 10th. Casilla was thrown out at the plate to end that inning by left fielder Ryan Raburn after tagging up.
Detroit thought it had taken the lead in the 12th. But with the bases loaded, plate umpire Randy Marsh ruled that Brandon Inge was not hit by a pitch by Bobby Keppel. The replay appeared to show the pitch grazing Inge's billowing uniform.
It was the first AL tiebreaker to go to extra innings and made up for Minnesota's disappointment last October when it lost 1-0 in Chicago to the White Sox in an AL Central tiebreaker.
Had the Twins lost, it would've been the final baseball game at the Metrodome. Instead, the Twins get the Yankees - New York was 7-0 against Minnesota this season.
"We're not going to have to face questions like 'Can you beat them?' like we've had to answer during the course of the year," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Once the playoffs start though, it's a new series and we know the importance of each game. You can pretty much throw everything else out the window."
A day after Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings beat the Green Bay Packers at the Dome - Monday Night Football is what delayed this tiebreaker for a day - the Twins pulled off a Tuesday Night Stunner.
Tigers reliever Fernando Rodney (2-5) worked his longest appearance of the season, getting the last two outs of the ninth. He gave up a single to Gomez to start the 12th, and the speedy centerfielder - who came in for defense late in the game - moved up on a groundout. He came racing around for the winning run when Casilla's single made it through the right side of the infield.
The Twins rushed out of the dugout in celebration even before Gomez reached the plate. Their comeback from a huge gap with 20 to play was complete.
Joe Mauer, who heard thunderous "M-V-P!" chants from the largest regular-season baseball crowd in Metrodome history throughout the game, led his team on a sprint around the warning track as they slapped hands with fans in the first rows.
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