MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — As Bartolo Colon walked off the mound to a standing ovation, old friend and Detroit Tigers first base coach Omar Vizquel wrapped him in a hug.
“He said, ‘I saw you pitch for the first time and now I saw you pitch for the last time,'” Colon said through an interpreter after he pitched one-run ball into the seventh inning of Minnesota’s 5-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. “Maybe he’s talking about himself not coming back because I’m not going anywhere.”
Colon said he plans to pitch in the big leagues next season. The way he looked on Sunday, he might not be done yet this year, either.
Jason Castro homered and drove in three runs for the Twins, who play an AL wild-card game in New York against the Yankees on Tuesday night. A win would put the Twins in an ALDS against Cleveland, where Minnesota may need an experienced arm like Colon (5-6).
The 44-year-old helped stabilize a rickety Twins rotation after he was picked up in the middle of July. But he had staggered of late, giving up 20 runs in 18 2/3 innings in September. The Twins don’t have a lot behind Ervin Santana and Jose Berrios, so the strong outing could be enough to win him a spot in October. Manager Paul Molitor said he hadn’t made a decision on the rotation.
“Not there yet,” Molitor said.
Twins slugger Miguel Sano went 0 for 3 as he works to get his timing back for the postseason. The slugger returned to active duty Friday after missing 38 games with a stress reaction in his left shin.
Sano was pinch hit for in the eighth inning after Molitor said he felt some discomfort in his leg. The team will wait to see how he responds tomorrow before making any decisions on his availability for the game against the Yankees.
Anibal Sanchez (3-7) gave up three runs and seven hits and struck out six in five innings for the Tigers, who missed the postseason for the third straight year and will go into the offseason looking for a manager to replace Brad Ausmus. Alex Presley hit a solo homer in the third inning.
The Twins finished 85-77, their highest victory total since they won 94 in 2010. That is also the last time they were in the playoffs, and now they gear up for a familiar nemesis. The Twins are 1-9 against the Yankees in their last three playoff series, including 3-0 sweeps in 2009 and 2010.
Colon (5-6) pitched 6 1/3 innings, giving up three hits and a walk while striking out four. He is firmly planning on pitching in 2018.
“That’s the goal,” he said. “That’s what I promised my old lady and that’s what I want to do.”
Chris Gimenez also homered for Minnesota and Joe Mauer went 1 for 3 with an RBI-double to finish the regular season with a .305 batting average, the first time he has topped .300 since 2013.
Bryan Holaday and JaCoby Jones had two hits for the Tigers.
The game was delayed 40 minutes by rain.
With Ausmus on the way out, he handed the managerial duties over to second baseman Ian Kinsler for the finale. Ausmus served as the bench coach, but Kinsler made all the substitutions and decisions.
“It was definitely interesting to think about the game in a little bit different way,” Kinsler said.
Despite the Twins’ surprising surge to the playoffs, Molitor has yet to have discussions with executives Derek Falvey and Thad Levine about a new contract. Molitor’s deal is up after this season, and Falvey and Levine said they would address the situation after the season ends.
“If circumstances were different and we weren’t playing Tuesday, I might have spent more time thinking about it, to be honest with you,” Molitor said. “Whenever we’re done, and hopefully it’s not for a while, I’m sure that will be pushed to the forefront.”
The game held some meaning for the Tigers. There was draft positioning on the line.
The loss, coupled with a win by the San Francisco Giants over the San Diego Padres, means the Tigers will get the No. 1 overall pick in next year’s draft. Had Detroit won and the Phillies lost on Sunday, the Tigers could have dropped to No. 3.
Tigers: The offseason. They finish with a 64-98 record, their most losses since they went 43-119 in 2003.
Twins: Ervin Santana (16-8, 3.28) will start for the Twins against the Yankees on Tuesday.
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