MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins have been out of contention for months.
They’re still having a good time with the end of their season, though.
Ryan Doumit had four RBIs including the go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning, leading the Twins past Detroit 4-2 on Friday to cut the Tigers’ lead in the AL Central to one game when the Chicago beat Tampa Bay.
“Guys are into it and really pumped up. I think this will make them hungry and want to get back into this stuff,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Hopefully we’ll be a better ballclub next year and be a part of that.”
Rookie Drew Smyly struck out five over 5 1-3 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits in a fill-in start for Max Scherzer, but Brayan Villarreal (3-5) walked three (Joe Mauer was intentional) to load the bases in the eighth before Doumit’s one-out hit put the Twins in front. Doumit who has career highs with 17 homers and 71 RBIs clapped his hands and pumped his arm in celebration when he reached second base.
“That’s a really good team, and they’re playing for something, and for us it’s exciting to have something to play for and that’s to kind of be the spoilers,” Doumit said, adding: “This was a fun win.”
Doumit exploited an error by Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder to start the seventh inning, following with a broken-bat home run off Phil Coke that made it 2-0. Miguel Cabrera had two hits for the Tigers to raise his league-leading average to .327, but he was thrown out at the plate to end the sixth.
Omar Infante’s two-run homer after an error by Justin Morneau spoiled Scott Diamond’s shutout in the eighth, tying the game at 2, and Glen Perkins picked up his 16th save with a perfect ninth inning.
“It’s a playoff feel. They’re fighting for a playoff spot, and it makes us feel like we are too,” Mauer said.
Cabrera got Detroit’s first hit off Diamond with two outs in the fourth inning. Then in the sixth he sent a line drive screaming toward right field so hard he thought it was gone, standing to watch it soar before realizing the ball would hit the wall and hustling down the base line. Right fielder Ben Revere, a weak thrower, fired a perfect one-hopper to second to keep Cabrera at first.
Fielder followed with a single, and Cabrera appeared to be upset at himself when he reached second, wondering if he could’ve had a double that would’ve allowed him to score. Delmon Young singled to right after that, and Cabrera was determined to give the Tigers their first run. But Revere’s throw was strong and on line, beating Cabrera to the plate to end the inning.
Mauer fell five points behind Cabrera’s .327 average in the batting race by going 0 for 2, but the chase is even more intriguing given Cabrera’s legitimate chance to become the first player since 1967 to lead the league in batting, home runs and RBIs in the same season. Cabrera’s triple crown depends on holding Mauer off and surpassing Josh Hamilton (42) and Edwin Encarnacion (41) in the home run category. He’s gone deep 41 times. He has a comfortable lead in RBIs.
Cabrera had the opportunity to physically affect the batting race competition when the burly slugger came barreling toward home in the sixth, but he slid instead of colliding with the All-Star catcher.
Diamond, in three starts against the Tigers this season, has been dominant. Infante’s drive was the first homer he gave up against them. Diamond finished 21 innings, allowing only 15 hits and six runs. Manager Jim Leyland, impressed by Diamond’s performance in the first game of the doubleheader last Sunday said in the afternoon he thought “all day” about how the Tigers could approach their at-bats against the left-hander differently.
The Twins still have by far the worst starting pitching ERA in the league, but Diamond has at least solidified one spot in the rotation. He has completed five innings or more in 31 of his 33 career starts and lasted at least six in 21 of his 26 appearances this year.
“He threw the ball really well,” Mauer said. “Those are the nights you want to get the guy a win.”
NOTES: The Twins tied the season series with the Tigers 8-8. … Twins LF Josh Willingham sat out again with a sore shoulder, unable to swing without discomfort. His season could be over, with the Twins wary of worsening the injury. … RH Samuel Deduno, pulled from his start on Wednesday in the second inning because of irritation in his left eye, probably won’t pitch again this year. “That’s not anything to mess with,” general manager Terry Ryan said. … Morneau has three errors in the last five games. … Perkins has converted 12 straight save opportunities. … Revere, despite his limited arm strength, leads the Twins with eight outfield assists. … RH Jared Burton got two outs in the eighth after Diamond left. He has given up three earned runs in his last 36 1-3 innings, with an opponent batting average of .165 during that stretch.