DETROIT (AP) _ Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted playing the Minnesota Twins is no more important than any other team.
A sellout crowd that was buzzing from the first pitch, and at least one his players didn’t agree.
Magglio Ordonez drove in three of Detroit’s seven runs over two innings and the Tigers went on to beat Minnesota 7-3 on Friday night.
“Let’s not get into the big game (stuff) now,” Leyland said. “We all know that from last year.
“We had a big game April 7th last year, or April 8th or April 9th. Had we won one of those games _ whichever date you want to pick _ we would’ve been in the playoffs.”
Detroit became the first team to miss out on the postseason after having a three-game lead with four games left, losing Game 163 at Minnesota.
Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said he and the 42,549 fans at Comerica Park didn’t treat the series opener as just another game.
“If you can’t get up for a game like this, you probably don’t have a heartbeat,” Inge said.
Tigers fans roared when Justin Verlander picked off his first of two runners at first base in the opening inning and cheered wildly when Ordonez drove in his first of three runs in the home half.
When Francisco Liriano’s night ended before the second inning was over _ after giving up seven runs _ Naughty By Nature’s “Hip-Hop Hooray” blared and fans in the stands danced and sang along.
AL Central-leading Detroit won its fourth straight _ keeping a half-game lead over the Chicago White Sox _ and for the 16th time in 18 home games.
The Twins have lost three straight and six of eight. Minnesota has slipped to third place and trails the Tigers by three games after having a 1 1/2-game lead on them at the start of the month.
“We can’t come in and play like that against any team, but we especially can’t do it against the Tigers right now,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Twins were without one of their best players, All-Star first baseman Justin Morneau, who missed his second straight game because of a concussion.
Verlander (11-5) gave up two runs over 5 1-3 innings. Robbie Weinhardt inherited the bases loaded in the sixth and got Delmon Young to hit into an inning-ending double play.
Liriano (6-7) gave up seven runs _ matching a career high _ six hits in just 1 2-3 innings to equal his second-shortest start.
“I don’t know what happened, to be honest,” he said.
In the first inning, Ordonez hit an RBI single and rookie Brennan Boesch’s single made it 2-0. Ordonez had a two-run single the next inning, Miguel Cabrera followed with a sacrifice fly and Carlos Guillen’s two-run triple for a seven-run cushion.
Jason Kubel had run-scoring singles in the fourth and sixth innings.
Detroit’s Ryan Perry gave two hits and a run in the ninth without getting an out, compelling Leyland to use All-Star Jose Valverde.
J.J. Hardy _ the first to face Valverde _ hit an RBI single to pull Minnesota.
Left fielder Don Kelly then made what Leyland called “a tremendous play,” for the first out, sprinting to foul territory to make a sliding catch in the dirt. Valverde then struck out Span and got Hudson to ground out.
“If we don’t have somebody down there who can hold a five-run lead in the ninth inning besides the closer, we’re in trouble,” Leyland said.
Liriano had one of the worst starts of his career.
The seven runs matched the most he allowed, equaling a total he reached three times last year. The only shorter start he has had was on April 24, 2008, when he gave up six runs to Oakland and got just two outs before being pulled.
Liriano was the AL pitcher of the month in April and started 4-0 and looked like he had bounced back from elbow surgery that stunted his career after he was 12-3 with a 2.16 ERA in 2006. He has regressed lately, going 0-4 in his last five starts.
NOTES: Leyland lashed out at a report indicating the Tigers won’t rule out trading RHP Rick Porcello. “There’s a rumor going around about Rick Porcello being traded,” Leyland said, unsolicited, to end his postgame session with writers. “I want to make this perfectly clear _ that is a blatant lie. There is not a chance Rick Porcello is going to be traded.” … Gardenhire said he didn’t know when Morneau might return, but said it “wouldn’t make much sense,” for him to go to the All-Star game in a few days if he can’t play in either Saturday or Sunday in Detroit. … Cabrera has a 17-game hitting streak, matching a career-high. … Verlander became the first pitcher to pick off two in a game since San Diego’s Josh Deer did it June 7, 2009, against Arizona, according to STATS.