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07/04/09 3:12 AM ET

Big comeback nets big letdown

Twins rally from six down, only to fall to Tigers in 16 innings

MINNEAPOLIS -- When a starting pitcher leaves a game after three innings, it taxes his team's bullpen. But when that game lasts 16 innings, the entire roster feels it.

That's exactly what happened in a marathon at the Metrodome on Friday night, as the Twins fell to the Tigers by an 11-9 final in a game that took 16 innings, a combined 35 hits, 15 total pitchers and over five hours to finish.

"A really long night. I don't really know," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We all watched it and witnessed it. You get into those extra innings, crazy things happen."

Crazy things indeed happened Friday, and Minnesota was on both the good and bad sides of the craziness.

Perhaps the toughest series of events to stomach for the Twins came in the top of the 16th. With knuckleballer R.A. Dickey -- the last relief pitcher in the Twins' bullpen -- in his third inning of work, the Tigers finally broke the game open with three runs. Ramon Santiago singled in the go-ahead run off Dickey (1-1) for a 9-8 Detroit lead. Two more singles by Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordonez gave the Tigers an 11-8 edge heading into the bottom of the 16th.

Having already mounted a pair of comebacks on the night -- including a five-run sixth inning that tied the game at 7-7 -- Minnesota shaved only one run off the Tigers lead in the bottom half of the 16th. Joe Mauer scored on a ground-ball out by Michael Cuddyer, and the marathon finally ended after midnight CT.

The game seemed out of hand early, as the Twins found themselves down by 6-0 in the bottom of the third. Starter Kevin Slowey was roughed up in just three innings of work and left after the third with a strained wrist. He was placed on the disabled list after the game.

Minnesota trailed by 7-2 after four innings before mounting its first comeback to knot it at 7.

Friday's contest would have never made it to extra innings if not for the big sixth inning by the Twins. Joe Crede started it with a solo blast, his 12th homer of the season -- and 25th of his career against the Tigers, most against any opponent.

Back-to-back triples by Denard Span and Brendan Harris produced three more runs in the inning, which was capped off by a sacrifice fly by Mauer.

"We made a good effort to come back," Span said. "We were down 7-1. A lot of teams would just say, 'We'll get them tomorrow.' That's not what we believe in, especially when we're playing at home. We never give up. I think we can take this as maybe a moral victory."

Span's triple was one of his five hits on the night, giving him his first career five-hit game.

"We've tried everything," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We just haven't been able to get the guy out."

Span had two chances to collect his sixth hit of the night, but grounded out in the 13th and struck out in the 15th.

The game remained tied at 7 until the 14th, when Polanco drove in the go-ahead run for Detroit. Minnesota countered with a run in the bottom of the inning, and could have ended the game if not for a questionable baserunning decision by Morneau.

After Morneau reached first on a base hit that advanced Mauer to third, Cuddyer laced a shot down the left-field line off the glove of third baseman Brandon Inge. Mauer scored on the play, and Morneau rounded second and made his way to third as the ball rolled into foul territory.

But shortstop Santiago was able to corral the ball and throw Morneau out at third for the first out of the inning, one that proved to be costly for the Twins.

"He thought he could get there and he got thrown out," Gardenhire said. "You know what, it's a situation where the ball is rolling down the left-field line and he's trying to get there and doesn't make it. Turns out, yeah, it's not a great baserunning play because he got thrown out."

The Twins' bullpen kept them in the game, as the relievers pitched nine straight scoreless innings before finally giving up a run in the 14th. Minnesota used all six relievers, wearing down the bullpen in the process.

"Our bullpen came in and did a super, super job to give us a chance to win the ballgame," Gardenhire said. "It's just unfortunate we couldn't come up with one more big hit to win the game early."

Tyler Mason is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.