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TB@DET: Santiago wins it with a walk-off triple

DETROIT -- The original version of Monday's Tigers-Rays tilt saw Detroit with a two-run lead before storms washed out the game. It took two and a half weeks, extra innings and a controversial call, but the Tigers finally got their two runs back.

Once Victor Martinez made it from first to home on Ramon Santiago's triple in the 10th inning, that second run was enough for a 2-1 win. It was worth the wait, and not just for the deadlock it preserved atop the American League Central.

"It's a great win for us," Santiago said. "Any win, anyhow for us, is very important for us. We have to grind out every game."

The win ensures that Detroit enters its three-game showdown series against Cleveland on Tuesday night in a virtual tie atop the division. The Indians won a 1-0 game over the Yankees on Monday night in the Bronx.

It also ensures that, barring a rainout, one team is going to end up alone atop the division when the series is over. But as the Tigers were struggling to hold onto their 1-0 lead, then trying to get the winning run across once Tampa Bay tied it, the Tribe wasn't their main concern.

"You know what? We're just taking it day by day, game by game," Martinez said. "Doesn't matter who we're playing. We just play hard and let things happen."

This was originally supposed to be a day when nothing happened. It was a scheduled off-day for the Tigers until storm clouds washed out these two teams May 25 in the third inning with a 2-0 Tigers lead. While the makeup game fell in the middle of a Tigers homestand, it added one more stop to a Rays road trip that already took them to Seattle, Anaheim and Baltimore.

Martinez's journey from first to home to close out his trip only seemed to cover that kind of distance.

"Did somebody get Victor some oxygen? He looked like he was going to pass out when he got in there," starter Phil Coke joked.

Coke was long since in the clubhouse once the 10th inning started. He was still in the dugout in the seventh when the Rays flipped out over losing the tying run.

With the bases loaded, one out and a full count, Casey Kotchman lofted a high fly ball into shallow right field. Magglio Ordonez, who just returned from the disabled list earlier in the day, camped under it for the catch, then fired a strike to home plate on one hop as Justin Ruggiano slid home.

Ruggiano tried to slide around Tigers catcher Alex Avila, who was blocking the plate, and seemingly did so successfully. But Triple-A umpire John Tumpane, who filled in for Mike Winters on the crew, called him out. Replays suggested Avila missed his tag attempt as Ruggiano slid by, then didn't actually tag him until after Ruggiano had touched home plate.

Ruggiano hopped up incredulous at the ruling before Rays manager Joe Maddon emerged from the dugout and got in between him and Tumpane. Maddon was soon ejected.

"The replay speaks for itself," Maddon said.

Avila hadn't seen it after the game, and wasn't interested.

"Coming around, I thought I might have gotten him on the foot, but I wasn't sure," Avila said. "And he called him out, so he's out."

Three Tampa Bay singles and a sacrifice fly off former Rays reliever Joaquin Benoit in the eighth rendered the contested call moot. Fittingly, the sac fly came from Ruggiano, and it went deep enough that right field defensive replacement Casper Wells didn't have a play at the plate.

That set the game toward extra innings. And it made Santiago, a defensive replacement in the eighth at second base, into a much-needed hitter.

Rays closer Kyle Farnsworth, a Tigers reliever in 2005 and '08, started the 10th inning with a called third strike on former teammate Miguel Cabrera, and he tried to get Martinez to chase fastballs inside and out once he got into a 1-2 count. With the count full, Farnsworth tried to challenge him with a sinker on the outside corner, which Martinez pulled through the right side for his second hit of the game.

"I was just trying to get on base," said Martinez, one of three Tigers with two hits.

"I was ready for a fastball early in the count," Santiago said. "If I let him get on top, he uses maybe his changeup, his slider in that situation. With Victor on first, I tried to get a fastball and tried to hit it on the sweet spot."

He got all of it, driving the ball into the gap in right-center. Martinez, who watched Avila triple twice last Thursday against the Mariners, got to do his own three-base dash.

"You know what, man? I was just head-down running, see what happens," Martinez said. "I wasn't going to stop, even though it was just one out."

He had Santiago's attention.

"I was pulling for him," Santiago said. "I wasn't focused on running the bases. I was focused more on Victor than me."

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