DETROIT (AP) — Minnesota’s postseason hopes may depend on how often the Twins can beat a rebuilding Detroit team.
So far, they’ve had a pretty easy time of it this week.
Max Kepler and Brian Dozier homered, Byron Buxton had three hits and the playoff-chasing Twins beat the Tigers 7-3 on Friday night, increasing their lead to 3 ½ games for the American League’s second wild card. Minnesota has taken the first two games of this four-game set, and the Twins finish the regular season next week with three more against Detroit.
“We know that we’re in for a fight. These guys have played us tough the last few years,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “They’ve semi-dominated us in some regards. Obviously, there’s a lot on the line.”
The Detroit team of the past few years looked nothing like the Tigers do now. They’re 4-18 in September, and they announced before Friday’s game that manager Brad Ausmus will not be back in 2018.
“It’s always difficult when you find out news like that,” Detroit second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “Whether they’re moving on, losing their job or getting traded, whatever the news is, it’s always difficult to take. You have to have some time to kind of wrap your head around it.”
Minnesota came into the night leading the race for the second wild card by 2 ½ games over Texas and the Los Angeles Angels. The Angels lost to Houston on Friday night, and Texas lost to Oakland.
Kyle Gibson (12-10) allowed three runs and five hits in seven innings for the Twins. He struck out six and walked two.
Daniel Norris (4-8) allowed five runs and seven hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Nicholas Castellanos and Kinsler homered for Detroit.
The Twins trailed 2-1 when Buxton came up with men on first and second and one out in the fourth. His line drive looked catchable, but it slipped past third baseman Jeimer Candelario and down the line for a double, scoring both runners. Buxton later came home on a single by Kepler.
Eduardo Escobar added an RBI single in the fifth, and Robbie Grossman’s run-scoring double in the sixth made it 6-2.
Castellanos opened the scoring with a solo homer in the second, but Kepler tied it the following inning with his 19th home run of the year. Kinsler’s RBI single in the third put Detroit up 2-1.
Kinsler later hit a solo homer in the sixth. Dozier’s home run, his 32nd, came in the ninth.
Gibson improved to 6-0 in his last seven starts. He had enough pitches working to beat the Tigers.
“The fastball and changeup were OK. Fastball command kind of got me through the day,” he said. “Slider was pretty in and out and the curveball was pretty bad, really. But you’re going to have those days. You’re not going to go out there very often with four pitches that are just going where they want to all the time.”
The highlight for Detroit was probably a diving, backhanded catch by center fielder JaCoby Jones in the third. Jones snagged Joe Mauer’s drive in the gap in left-center, then went sliding across the warning track.
“That was a tremendous play — one of the better ones all year, probably,” Ausmus said. “It’s fun to watch, and make no mistake, even though I’m not coming back, I want these guys to do well, and I want them to feel good about themselves moving forward.”
Tigers: LF Mikie Mahtook was removed from the game after he had a hard time chasing Buxton’s fourth-inning double. Mahtook aggravated a left groin injury and was set to have an MRI.
Twins: RHP Ervin Santana (15-8) takes the mound Saturday night against Detroit. Opponents are hitting .224 off him this year.
Tigers: LHP Matthew Boyd (6-10) makes his first start since having a no-hit bid broken up with two outs in the ninth last weekend.
(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)