MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -It was already a difficult day for the Detroit Tigers, and then they lost a tough game to the Minnesota Twins.
Hours after learning beloved former Tigers announcer Ernie Harwell had died, Detroit fell to Minnesota 4-3 on Tuesday night on J.J. Hardy's stellar ninth inning.
Hardy saved a run with a brilliant defensive play at shortstop in the top of the ninth, then tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the bottom half.
``You hate to see any game end like that, whether you win it or lose it,' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Word of Harwell's death at 92 started to spread shortly after the game began.
Brennan Boesch's homer in the ninth tied it for the Tigers and Alex Avila hit a two-out double. Hardy made a sliding stop on grounder by Ramon Santiago and threw out Avila after he rounded third base too quickly.
``I was just trying to get to that ball and knock it down so that he wouldn't score,' Hardy said. ``I came up with it, turned and threw the ball to (third baseman Nick Punto) and let him do the rest.'
Hardy hit a one-out triple and scored the winning run when a pitch from Ryan Perry (1-2) zipped past Avila and into the Tigers' dugout.
``I hit it and I started shaking my head 'No' because I thought the outfielder was going to catch it,' Hardy said of his hit.
Nick Blackburn (2-1) gave up three runs on 11 hits in his fourth career complete game.
``Blackie just pitched super,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ``He was running through it and had his sinker working. That was his ballgame all the way. He was on a mission tonight. He really threw the heck out of the ball.'
Dontrelle Willis pitched well for the Tigers, giving up three runs on four hits with six strikeouts and three walks in 5 1-3 innings.
For most of the night, the Tigers seemed to be missing something as Blackburn needed just 85 pitches to get through eight innings.
Harwell, the Hall of Fame announcer, died after a long battle with cancer. He called Tigers games for 42 years of his brilliant 55-year career and became one of the most treasured sports figures in Michigan history.
The Twins announced the news to the Target Field crowd during the seventh-inning stretch, putting a picture of his smiling face on the big screen. Twins fans saluted him with a warm standing ovation.
``His passion and wisdom during each broadcast gave you insight to his love for the Tigers, and for the state of Michigan,' Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said in a statement. ``The entire Detroit Tigers' family extends their heartfelt condolences to his wife, Lulu, and the Harwell family.'
Jim Thome had an RBI double and Delmon Young had two hits and an RBI for the Twins, who were missing MVP Joe Mauer for the fourth straight game. Mauer is out with a bruised left heel and is listed as day-to-day after an MRI exam showed no structural damage.
Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera each had two hits and an RBI for Detroit.
NOTES: Tigers C Gerald Laird left the game after fouling a ball off his left shin in the fifth inning. X-rays were negative and he is listed as day-to-day. ... Ordonez hit a sharp single to right field in the sixth inning and Twins RF Michael Cuddyer tried to throw him out at first base. Ordonez was none too pleased, giving a long look out at Cuddyer after the play. ... Twins C Wilson Ramos, who was 7 for 9 in his first two big league games, went 0 for 3.
The Associated Press News Service
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