Tigers escape with a split
Detroit’s lead over Twins stays at two
DETROIT - The Detroit Tigers were down after absorbing a difficult loss in the opener of their critical day-night doubleheader against the Minnesota Twins.
Their ace took over from there.
Justin Verlander kept the Tigers on top in the AL Central, pitching eight innings in a 6-5 victory last night that restored their two-game lead over the scrappy Twins.
“After the first game, this win was huge,’’ Verlander acknowledged.
It wasn’t easy, but it never is against the pesky Twins.
“They showed why they’re so good,’’ Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
Minnesota briefly pulled within one game of the Tigers when it won the doubleheader opener, 3-2, in 10 innings. Brandon Lyon (6-5) set up Orlando Cabrera’s go-ahead single with a pair of wild pitches.
If the Tigers can beat the Twins at home tonight and tomorrow, they’ll win their first division title since 1987. If Detroit doesn’t take the next two games of the series, the AL Central won’t be decided until the weekend - or early next week - with each team closing the regular season with a three-game set.
Verlander (18-9) struck out eight, giving him a baseball-best 264 this season, and allowed four runs and eight hits on a season-high 129 pitches. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 36th save in 37 chances, overcoming shaky defense that allowed Minnesota to pull within a run.
Brian Duensing (5-2) gave up five runs over 4 2/3 innings in his ninth career start for the Twins, who had a chance to at least tie the game in the eighth and ninth.
Delmon Young started the Minnesota ninth with an infield single. Rodney retired the next two batters and Nick Punto followed with a fly ball to center that Curtis Granderson misjudged, helping the Twins pull within a run. Rodney then got Denard Span to hit a game-ending fly to left.
In the nightcap, Miguel Cabrera hit a no-doubt homer to left. Magglio Ordonez, who started the day hitting an AL-best .408 in September, put Detroit ahead, 3-0, in the third with a sharply hit double.
Detroit’s Brandon Inge - the first to face Bobby Keppel - hit a two-run single in the fifth inning for a 5-0 lead.
Minnesota pushed across two in the sixth and two in the eighth to get within one.
The Twins had their star, Joe Mauer, at the plate with two on and one out in the eighth. Verlander threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance to scoring position, and Mauer hit a run-scoring groundout.
“That was big with him up in that situation,’’ Verlander said. “Who knows what happens if he does more than that.’’
Jason Kubel followed with an RBI double but Verlander got Michael Cuddyer to ground out.