DETROIT -- The Tampa Bay Rays are heading into the playoffs for the first time after rallying from a five-run deficit, losing the lead and winning in extra innings.
Ben Zobrist hit a go-ahead single in a four-run eighth and had a solo homer in the 11th, lifting the Rays to an 8-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday."I loved the way we played like that on the last day," manager Joe Maddon.Then, he put Tampa Bay's 97th victory in perspective."By the time Thursday comes around, nobody remembers what you did on Sunday," Maddon said.Tampa Bay will host the Minnesota Twins or the Chicago White Sox later this week in the playoffs, depending on how a game or two plays out.The Tigers probably wanted their season to mercifully to end, but they had to fly to Chicago to play a makeup game on Monday because the White Sox had a shot to win the AL Central.Detroit right-hander Freddy Garcia will get the start against Gavin Floyd, and acknowledged being motivated to beat one of his former teams."It will be fun because they're playing for everything," Garcia said. "If they lose, they go home. If we win, we go home, but we were spoilers."If the White Sox beat Detroit, they will play Minnesota in a tiebreaker Tuesday at home.Maddon said he would start right-hander James Shields, who threw only the first inning Sunday, or lefty Scott Kazmir in the first two games of the playoffs. But he would not say who would be on the mound for Game 1.In Detroit's home finale, Tampa Bay took advantage of the weakest link the Tigers had during their disappointing season and the faulty facet of the game led to two coaches losing their jobs.The Tigers failed to meet high expectations for many reasons, but their pitching -- particularly the bullpen -- might've been the biggest culprit.Perhaps it was fitting that relievers lost a lead after the seventh inning for an unlucky 13th time in the last game of the year at Comerica Park.After the game, manager Jim Leyland announced pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and bullpen coach Jeff Jones had been fired."It's one of the unfortunate things, in situations like this, you know somebody's going to pay," Leyland said. "If it was next year at this time, it would be me."I feel very bad for both guys. I've never fired coaches."Tigers starter Zach Miner had a career-high six strikeouts, but gave up homers to Rocco Baldelli and Eric Hinske in the fifth inning."It was tough to warm up for the last time with [the fired coaches] and I tried to not get very emotional, but I was thinking about it and was sad," Miner said. "If I pitch good, I want people to give me credit."If I pitch bad, it's my fault. They prepared us, but somebody has to take the blame sometimes and unfortunately it's them."Edwin Jackson (14-11) gave up two runs and four hits over two innings. Jason Hammel had his second save in as many opportunities.Chris Lambert (1-2) pitched a perfect 10th inning, then allowed Zobrist to lead off the 11th with his fourth homer of the series to win the game."I like playing here, I guess," said Zobrist, who hit a third of his 12 homers this season at Comerica Park. "I really see the ball well here."Detroit had chances to finish the season one game over .500 at home.Curtis Granderson put Detroit ahead 3-0 in the third with a three-run homer and Magglio Ordonez extended the game to extra innings with a two-run home run in the ninth.Gary Sheffield, however, is stuck on 499 homers.He had plenty of chances to become the 25th major leaguer to hit 500 homers, but finished 1-for-5 with a walk. He singled in the ninth and scored when Ordonez followed with his 21st homer.Sheffield hopes to clear the fences at least once at Chicago."It would be nice to get it out of the way so I don't have to start next season talking about it," he said.
Tampa Bay put Carl Crawford in the outfield for two innings, then pinch-hit for him in the eighth. The two-time All-Star returned to the Rays Friday after being out for nearly six weeks with a finger injury. Crawford is expected to play an instructional league game Monday at the Rays' minor league complex.... Tigers SS Edgar Renteria left the game with a left pectoral strain. ... Rays 1B Carlos Pena missed a second straight game to recover from an illness. ... Rays rookie C John Jaso made his first career start behind the plate. ... Detroit's sellout crowd of 40,373 boosted the club-record attendance total to 3,202,645. ... The Tigers plan to make Brandon Inge their everyday 3B and to play Carlos Guillen in LF.