MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — For the Minnesota Twins, barreling their way to a third straight 90-loss season, it’s about the little things — like not watching another team celebrate a playoff berth.
They had their noses rubbed in it Sunday in Oakland, where the Athletics beat Minnesota 11-7 to complete a four-game sweep and clinch their second straight AL West title.
The Twins are trying to avoid the same fate this week at Target Field, where they opened a season-ending homestand against AL Central contenders with a 4-3 victory over Detroit in 11 innings Monday night.
The first-place Tigers could have wrapped up a postseason spot with a win. Their magic number is two for securing the AL Central crown.
“We held them off from celebrating on our field for one more day,” said closer Glen Perkins, who pitched two scoreless innings. “We’d like to see (the Tigers) not celebrate on our field.”
Brian Dozier tied the score at 3 with a leadoff homer in the ninth, his team-high 18th, and scored the winning run in the 11th on a single by rookie Josmil Pinto. Minnesota snapped a four-game skid and bounced back from a 1-6 road trip through Chicago and Oakland.
It was an unlikely comeback. Starting a lineup with six players who spent most of the season in the minors, the Twins looked overmatched against Justin Verlander, who struck out eight in the first three innings and left with a 1-0 lead after six.
He gave up six hits and walked three but fanned 12, holding the Twins hitless (0 for 9) with runners in scoring position.
“I thought he was going to set records,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
The Twins had just been outclassed in Oakland, where they lost all four games by a combined score of 31-14.
“We got outpitched, outhit, outplayed,” Perkins said. “There was nothing good about that series.”
But the Twins roughed up Detroit’s best relief pitchers with six hits, two walks and three runs combined against Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras and Joaquin Benoit, who was charged with his first blown save of the year after giving up Dozier’s home run into the bullpen in left-center.
“I got ahead first pitch and he came back with a fastball. I put a good swing on it,” said Dozier, who was 0 for 3 with three called strikeouts against Verlander.
Dozier started the 11th with a sharp single off Luke Putkonen (1-2) and moved to second when Josh Willingham struck out on a wild pitch. Pinto followed with a hard single to right field, where strong-armed Torii Hunter was playing shallow.
“I knew that as good as Torii throws, it was going to be close, and as hard as Pinto hit it, it was going to be even closer,” Dozier said. “But he sailed it up a little bit. Right when I saw it leave his hand I knew it was going to be up because as strong an arm as he has, if he doesn’t keep the ball low, it’s going to ride on him.”
The Twins finish the season with two more games against Detroit and four against Cleveland, which is 4½ games behind the Tigers but leads the race for the second AL wild card.
Gardenhire moved within two wins of 1,000 for his career, all with the Twins since becoming their manager before the 2002 season.
“We’d like to win for Gardy,” Perkins said. “He needs two more.”