The Detroit Tigers are 78 games below .500, but have to play .750 ball the rest of the way to avoid one of baseball’s more dubious distinctions.
The Tigers close the regular season with a four-game series against the AL Central champion Minnesota Twins, needing three wins to avoid tying the post-1900 record of 120 losses in a season, set by the 1962 New York Mets.
Detroit has staved off baseball infamy this week, winning two straight, including a 3-0 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday.
The Tigers, who set an AL record Monday with their 118th loss, matched a season high by turning four double plays.
After breaking a 10-game losing streak with a 15-6 victory Tuesday, the Tigers have won consecutive games for the first time since taking three straight from Cleveland in the beginning of September.
With manager Alan Trammell attending to his mother’s funeral in California, former manager Larry Parrish, who was fired in 1999 and is the current manager of the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens, guided the Tigers to the victories. Trammell is expected back for this series.
The Twins locked up the AL Central with a 4-1 win over the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday. They rested most of their starters on Wednesday and will likely do the same for most of the Detroit series.
Rookie Michael Cuddyer hit a tiebreaking home run in the eighth inning as Minnesota won its 11th straight game, beating the Indians 3-2 on Wednesday.
Minnesota won its team-record 13th in a row at home. The Twins’ next game at the Metrodome will be Oct. 4—Game 3 of the AL division series.
“You prepare yourselves now for the playoffs,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who sat every regular except Matthew LeCroy. “We played a lot of the kids that have been chomping at the bit, and I thought they had fun out there.”
Minnesota has won 14 of 15 meetings with Detroit this season.
STANDINGS: Twins - 1st place, AL Central. Tigers - 5th place, 49 GB, AL Central.
TWINS PROBABLE STARTER: Johan Santana (12-3, 3.17 ERA). Santana, who will start Game 1 of the playoffs, has never lost to Detroit, going 2-0 with a 3.07 ERA in 13 career appearances, including three starts. The hard-throwing southpaw has been terrific down the stretch for the Twins, going 8-0 with a 2.71 ERA over his last 10 starts. Santana earned his 12th win by beating the Tigers 7-3 on Saturday. He gave up three runs and four hits while striking out five in 5 2-3 innings.
TIGERS PROBABLE STARTER: Nate Robertson (1-2, 6.21 ERA). The left-hander has allowed six runs in each of his last two starts. Robertson gave up six runs and six hits in five innings of a 7-3 loss to Minnesota on Saturday.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Twins - A.J. Pierzynski, .309 avg.; Torii Hunter, 26 HRs and 101 RBIs; Shannon Stewart, 88 runs; Cristian Guzman, 18 SBs. Tigers - Dmitri Young, .288 avg., 28 HRs, 81 RBIs and 74 runs; Alex Sanchez, 38 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Twins, 14-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Twins - Minnesota’s 11-game winning streak is its longest since a 15-game streak in 1991, the last year the Twins won the World Series. … SS Guzman leads the AL with 14 triples. … Minnesota’s 45-20 record since All-Star break is the best in the majors. Tigers - Detroit’s only win against Minnesota this season was a 9-2 victory at the Metrodome on Aug. 2. … INF Sanchez ranks third in the AL with 38 SBs. … OF Bobby Higginson sat out Wednesday’s game, completing a two-game suspension stemming from his Sept. 16 ejection against Toronto. He’ll return to the lineup on Thursday.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Twins - 41-36 on the road; Tigers - 20-57 at home.