Josmil Pinto hit an RBI single in the 11th inning and the Minnesota Twins overcame 12 strikeouts by Justin Verlander to beat the Detroit Tigers 4-3 on Monday night.
The Tigers led 3-0 in the eighth, but Jose Veras gave up RBI doubles to Eduardo Escobar and pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit. Brian Dozier led off the ninth with a tying homer against previously perfect closer Joaquin Benoit.
Dozier opened the 11th with a single off Luke Putkonen (1-2) and advanced on a wild pitch. Pinto punched a single to right field to give manager Ron Gardenhire his 998th career victory.
Verlander gave up six hits and walked three in six shutout innings for the Tigers, whose magic number remained two for clinching the AL Central.
Anthony Swarzak (3-2) pitched the 11th for the win.
Torii Hunter had two doubles and an RBI for Detroit, and Miguel Cabrera had two hits and an RBI while moving gingerly on a sore groin that kept him out of Sunday’s loss to the White Sox.
It was a rare stumble for Benoit, who has stabilized the shaky back end of the bullpen since becoming the full-time closer. He had converted 22 straight save chances this season.
The Tigers entered needing two wins – or one victory and a loss by idle Cleveland – to lock up their third straight division title. Verlander put them in position to get closer.
After three straight underwhelming outings by his lofty standards, Verlander was back to his untouchable self against the overmatched Twins.
With his curveball bending and his slider biting as well as they ever have, Verlander struck out the side in the second and third – and the whiffs kept coming.
Five times he got the Twins looking for strike three, four of them with wicked curveballs that froze the hitters. One of them buckled Chris Parmelee’s knees for his 10th strikeout of the game in the fourth inning. Verlander topped 200 strikeouts for the fifth straight year.
The right-hander had been tagged for 10 earned runs in his last three starts, a bothersome little skid as the playoffs approach. He also entered the night with a pedestrian 13-12 record and 3.66 ERA that is ordinary by his standards. Maybe an outing against the meager Twins offense will be enough to get him back in the groove.
Clinging to a 1-0 lead and with his pitch count rising in the sixth, Verlander steeled himself and blew away Pedro Florimon with a 98 mph fastball to keep the potential tying run stranded at second base. It was Verlander’s third double-digit strikeout game of the season, and first since he fanned 13 Pirates on May 27.
But Veras let the Twins back in it in the eighth, prompting manager Jim Leyland to go to Benoit earlier than he would have liked.
Mike Pelfrey gave up one run on six hits with five strikeouts and three walks in six innings for the Twins.
NOTES: Prince Fielder played in his 500th straight game. … The Indians open a series against the White Sox in Cleveland on Tuesday. … Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia was a late scratch when he bruised his right knee after running into the wall while chasing down a fly ball in batting practice. … The Twins struck out at least 10 times for the 60th time this season. The previous team high was 26 in 2001. … Tigers RHP Doug Fister (13-9, 3.71 ERA) will take the mound Tuesday night against Twins LHP Scott Diamond (6-11, 5.54).