DETROIT (AP) — Alex Avila hit a three-run homer in the second inning and Ramon Santiago added a two-run shot in the fourth to help the Detroit Tigers rally for their seventh straight victory, 8-4 over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.
Brad Penny (10-10) allowed four runs in the top of the first but settled down after that and Detroit was able to slug its way back from the early deficit. The first-place Tigers have won 17 of 21 and reduced their magic number to clinch the AL Central to 11 — with the second-place Chicago White Sox still playing Friday night.
Kevin Slowey (0-5) allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings.
Penny allowed four runs and five hits in five innings.
The Twins have lost six of seven and 15 of 19.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said before the game he’d talked to Penny about picking up the pace a bit on the mound and not working so slowly. Of course, outs are the only real way to speed up the game, and the right-hander had a hard time getting them in the first inning. After a 51-minute rain delay at the start of the game, Jason Kubel hit an RBI single, Danny Valencia followed with a two-run triple, and Chris Parmelee added an RBI single to make it 4-0.
In Penny’s previous start, Detroit rallied from an 8-1 deficit to beat the Chicago White Sox 9-8, and the Tigers didn’t stay down for long in this one. Avila started the comeback with an opposite-field homer, his 18th of the season. Then, in the fourth, Wilson Betemit tied it with an RBI triple.
Santiago followed with his fifth homer of the season to make it 6-4. He’s hit four of those homers since Aug. 14 — about the time Detroit began pulling away from the rest of the division.
Delmon Young — traded from the Twins to the Tigers last month — added a solo homer in the fifth to make it 7-4. Young has eight homers on the season, including four in only 23 games with Detroit.
Minnesota’s Joe Mauer started at catcher, the first time he’s played the position since Aug. 20. He’s played only 78 games this season because of a variety of injuries. Mauer singled and scored in the first, but was charged with a passed ball in the eighth.
Brandon Inge hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 8-4, denying Jose Valverde a chance to set a new franchise record for saves. Valverde has 42 this season, equaling Todd Jones’ mark from 2000.
Valverde pitched the ninth anyway.
NOTES: Detroit officially placed OF Brennan Boesch on the 15-day disabled list. Boesch is not expected back this season after surgery on his right thumb. … Minnesota LHP Francisco Liriano, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, is expected to throw a bullpen session Sunday. … Twins OF Ben Revere appeared to be hit in the right wrist by a pitch in the seventh, but he stayed in the game. … Max Scherzer (14-8) takes the mound for Detroit on Saturday against Minnesota’s Anthony Swarzak (3-6). … The Tigers are 12-4 against the Twins this year.
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