DETROIT (AP) -- The defending AL champions plan to keep competing until somebody tells them to go home.
Brandon Inge hit a go-ahead, two-run single in the sixth inning and the Detroit Tigers rallied for a 5-4 win Friday night over Kansas City, maintaining their slim chances of making it back to the playoffs.Detroit moved within 4 1/2 games of the New York Yankees in the wild-card race, who lost 5-4 in 14 innings to the Toronto Blue Jays. The Tigers remain 7 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central with just more than a week left in the regular season."Crazier things have happened, so we're going to play it out until the very end and we'll see where we're at," said Sean Casey, whose three-run homer in the fifth sparked the comeback.The Tigers were behind the Royals 4-0 after four innings, but came back to take the lead on Casey's home run in the fifth and Inge's clutch hit in the sixth -- much to the delight of 40,000-plus fans.Detroit manager Jim Leyland was touched by the size and enthusiasm of the crowd, coming off a deflating sweep against the Indians earlier in the week."A lot of them, after they saw what happened, could've not showed and gone to high school football," Leyland said. "I'm totally impressed."The Royals lost for the 12th time in 16 games, leading to manager Buddy Bell ending a 1-minute news conference with a question."Can I be done?" Bell asked.After Kansas City roughed up Jair Jurrjens, Tim Byrdak and the bullpen kept the Tigers in the game.Byrdak (2-0) did not give up a hit over four innings, striking out five and walking only one. He was replaced with one out in the seventh, and the fans behind the dugout gave him a standing ovation for making the comeback possible."That felt great," Byrdak said. "Everybody is talking about the bleak playoff picture, but it tells you a lot that our fans still believe in us."Fernando Rodney didn't give up a hit in 1 2/3 innings, and Todd Jones pitched the ninth for his 38th save in 43 chances -- giving up the only hit the bullpen allowed in 6 2/3 innings.Kansas City got the tying runner, who reached on an error, to third base with one out in the eighth, but Rodney got out of the inning with a strikeout and flyout.The Royals scored in each of the first three innings -- highlighted by Jason Smith's two-run homer in the second -- and Billy Buckner held Detroit scoreless for four innings before the game turned.Buckner gave up three runs and seven hits over five innings. Leo Nunez (2-4) gave up two unearned runs, and got only one out.In the sixth, Detroit's Ivan Rodriguez hit a grounder to Smith and instead of the shortstop starting what could've been an inning-ending double play he made an untimely throwing error."Maybe I did rush it a little bit and threw it too hard," Smith said.John Bale replaced Nunez and after getting a strikeout, Bale gave up an infield single that bounced into fair territory. Bell was dumbfounded that Bale didn't field the ball while it was in foul territory."I don't think I've ever seen a big league player let a ball go that went fair. That was a bad play," Bell said. "That was elementary. You learn that in little league."Bale said he simply thought the tapper was going to stay to the right of the first-base line."Now that I go back and replay it in my head, I wish I would have grabbed it," he said.Inge then followed with his two-run single through the right side of the infield.Jurrjens allowed four runs and six hits, lasting just 2 1/3 innings after giving up only one run in each of his previous four starts."He's a baby. He's going to be fine," Leyland said of the 21-year-old right-hander. "But tonight, he wasn't sharp and they took advantage of that."Leyland used his best lineup and said he plans to continue doing so, even though his team is all but eliminated from postseason contention."I'm not going to win a game and look like a fool and start talking," Leyland said. "Cleveland is going to win the division and we are still a longshot."But this club will play until the end and we're going to try to win as many games as we can. You can take that to the bank, and wherever that takes us is fine."
Rodriguez played his 2,056th game as a catcher, tying Gary Carter for third on the all-time list, and trailing just Carlton Fisk (2,226) and Bob Boone (2,225) in games behind the plate in major league history. ... Royals DH Billy Butler was 2-for-4, giving him a season-high eight-game hitting streak, and had two RBIs. ... Detroit RHP Jeremy Bonderman (elbow) said if he responds well to throwing on the side Saturday, he might start Tuesday.