Twins Complete Comeback, 6-5 Over Tigers In 12th

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The Minnesota Twins rushed from their dugout even before Carlos Gomez's head-first slide into home.

They knew.

The Metrodome erupted in a jet-like roar, as Gomez scored the winning run well ahead of a late throw from right field to finish off an AL Central race _ and a thrilling tiebreaker _ that didn't want to end.

Minnesota wouldn't quit, while the Detroit Tigers finished their historic fade. There was little time for the Twins to celebrate, because the New York Yankees were waiting, but the Twins sure made the most of their quick party.

Alexi Casilla singled home the winning run off Fernando Rodney with one out in the 12th inning and the Twins rallied for a 6-5 victory Tuesday 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.

How was that for bonus baseball?

"I'm ready, all the time," said Casilla, one of several bottom-of-the-roster players forced into duty in this all-or-nothing epic as both managers drained their benches and bullpens with move after move.

The Tigers became the first team in history to blow a three-game lead with four games left. They were in first place continuously since May 10.

"I guess it's fitting to say there was a loser in this game because we lost the game, but it's hard for me to believe there was a loser in this game," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Both teams played their hearts out. You can't ask for anything more than that."

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.

"We just feel like we have nothing to lose, man," outfielder Denard Span said.

Both teams had chance after chance 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.

The Tigers thought they'd 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.

"No matter what we did, it seems like it wasn't meant to be," Inge said. "This is the best game, by far, that I've ever played in no matter the outcome."

It was the first AL tiebreaker to go to extra innings, making up for Minnesota's disappointment last year 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 afraid. I can guarantee you that," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.

The Twins were also happy to play this at home, thanks to an 11-7 record against the Tigers this year. Last year, they won the season series from the White Sox, but a coin flip gave Chicago the home game. This time, Major League Baseball changed the rules.

"I think we're very thankful that we were at home, and that it happened in front of our fans," said starting pitcher Scott Baker.

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.

"One of the best games I'll ever play in," Mauer said after securing his third batting title with a .365 average.

According to sports researcher STATS LLC, only three teams since 1901 have blown a three-game lead in the standings with four games left. The Houston Astros lost three straight games to Los Angeles in 1980, but they recovered to defeat the Dodgers in a tiebreaker game for the NL West. Milwaukee lost three in a row to Baltimore in 1982 to force a tie, but beat the Orioles in the fial regular season game to win the AL East.

After splitting four in Detroit last week _ a loss in the series finale Thursday would've given the division to the Tigers _ the Twins came home for the final scheduled series in the bubble needing a sweep of the Kansas City Royals and did just that.

So with 54,088 fans in attendance, the place was erupting with noise and excitement. The chants for Mauer, who wrapped up his third batting title, were deafening. Leyland even told his players before the game to think of the loudest experience of their life and multiply it by four to anticipate the decibel level for this game. Dome ball came in handy again, on a day when the city was drenched by cold rain.

Rookie starter Rick Porcello pitched well beyond his 20 years for the Tigers, and Miguel Cabrera made up for a miserable weekend _ on and off the field _ with a two-run homer against Scott Baker in the third inning that made it 3-0. The crowd chanted "al-co-ho-lic" right before Cabrera went deep, a rude reference to the first baseman's fight with his wife after he came home late and drunk.

The Twins crept back, though, and Orlando Cabrera's two-run homer in the seventh gave them a brief lead that Magglio Ordonez ended with his leadoff homer in the eighth.

"I was just emotionally drained the way that it went back and forth," Baker said. "I don't know what else you could do to make it any more exciting."

NOTES: This was the ninth tiebreaker game in baseball history, and the third straight year with a 163rd game. Only two of them went to extra innings. ... Seven members of the Metrodome's cleaning and maintenance crews were honored on the mound before the game for the work of those groups in converting the field back and forth from baseball to football in light of Monday's Packers-Vikings game.

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