Twins slow down Tigers in title chase
Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers can't stand still. The Chicago White Sox are right behind them.
Ryan Doumit had four RBI for Minnesota, including the go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning to help the Twins beat the Tigers 4-2 on Friday and cut the their lead in the AL Central back to one game on the White Sox.
After gaining five games on the White Sox in nine days, the Tigers let their grip slip a little after a four-game sweep of Kansas City. Chicago ended Tampa Bay's eight-game winning streak with a 3-1 victory.
"Nothing comes easy for us, it seems like. We knew the White Sox weren't going to go away," catcher Gerald Laird said.
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 to load the bases in the eighth before Doumit's one-out hit put the Twins ahead.
"Villarreal just didn't have it," manager Jim Leyland said, adding: "We got beat. It's simple. They did more than we did."
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. 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, but Glen Perkins picked up his 16th save with a perfect ninth inning after Doumit's next drive.
"Unfortunately for us watching the scoreboard won't help us. But we can go out there and be a part of one with the other team," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You're looking out there and seeing the Mighty Whities are winning. And we're in one of those twister games. So it is fun."
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.
The inning started with a line drive he sent 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, so had Cabrera been able to get second base on his hit he might've scored.
"You watched the game, didn't you?" Leyland said, when asked if he thought Cabrera could've gotten a double.
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 when he slid instead of colliding into batting title competitor Joe Mauer. Cabrera got up gingerly, but Leyland said he didn't think his star slugger's ankle was bothering him.
Cabrera didn't want to talk about the game afterward.
"He doesn't run like Quintin Berry," Leyland said, when asked if Cabrera was able to go full speed.
Mauer fell five points behind Cabrera 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 RBI 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 RBI.
Smyly, the team's second-round draft pick in 2010, made his 18th major league start. He was bumped to the bullpen when the Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez, but he still has a lot of value. He started the second game of the doubleheader last weekend, and when Scherzer was scratched because of a lingering shoulder problem the 23-year-old left-hander got the call again.
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.
"That's a good team, and this is twice in a row he's thrown well against them, so this is fun," Doumit said.
Leyland said he's "not counting" on Scherzer being able to start on Wednesday, so Smyly will probably pitch in the regular season finale. "Mark this down and take it to the bank: Scherzer won't pitch unless he is physically ready to pitch, under any circumstances," Leyland said. ... The Tigers will send RH Justin Verlander (16-8, 2.72 ERA) to the mound on Saturday afternoon against RH P.J. Walters (2-4, 5.88 ERA). Walters pitched six strong innings against the Tigers last Sunday, allowing one run in the second half of the doubleheader. Verlander, the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, has won six of his last eight starts. ... Leyland said he put Villarreal in because RH Octavio Dotel had soreness in his biceps. "I don't think it's a big deal," Dotel said.