An AL Central title might be a bit out of reach, but the Detroit Tigers are making up ground in the AL wild card race.
The Tigers will be trying to finish off their second straight three-game sweep in Minnesota on Sunday when they face the struggling Twins.
Detroit (82-67) is 5 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the Central lead with just 13 games left. However, the Tigers’ 4-3 win over the Twins (72-76) on Saturday moved them to within 2 1/2 games of the New York Yankees, who lead the AL wild card standings.
The Yankees lost 10-1 to Boston on Saturday, a day after rallying from a five-run deficit for a win over the Red Sox.
“It’s nice to finally get one,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We got a heartbreaker last night. That’s the way it is.”
The Tigers have won nine of their last 11 games overall and six straight against the Twins, including a three-game sweep at the Metrodome July 17-19 in the last meeting between the teams. Detroit is 7-1 in Minnesota this season after going 4-6 there last season.
The Tigers would no doubt be satisfied with a wild card berth to the playoffs. Last season, they led the AL Central for much of the season, but lost the division title on the last day of the regular season to the Twins.
Still, Detroit advanced to the World Series, where it lost to St. Louis in five games.
“Every win for us means a lot right now,” said catcher Ivan Rodriguez, who doubled in three runs. “We’re not thinking New York. We’re not thinking Cleveland. We’re just thinking of every single game left for us during the season, and then see what happens at the end.”
Reigning Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana, threw eight innings for Minnesota, but gave up four runs in the first inning and was saddled with his third loss in four starts.
Yorman Bazardo pitched 4 2-3 effective innings in his first major league start for Detroit. Leyland shuffled his rotation this weekend and will start rookie Jair Jurrjens (2-1, 3.15 ERA) on Sunday so veteran Kenny Rogers can pitch in the opener of a set with the Indians on Monday.
“They’re giving those (young) guys a chance to pitch and we didn’t take advantage of it,” Santana said.
Jurrjens is making his fifth major league start and second since a stint on the disabled list with right shoulder soreness. He gave up one run in five innings of a 4-1 win over Texas on Tuesday in the second game of a doubleheader.
Jurrjens has never faced Minnesota and is making just his second start on the road. He gave up four runs in seven innings of a 5-2 loss in Cleveland in his major league debut on Aug. 15.
Minnesota counters with Scott Baker (9-7, 4.17), who has allowed three or fewer runs in each of his last six starts. He allowed three runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings of Tuesday’s 6-3 win in Kansas City, improving to 3-1 with a 2.81 ERA over his last for starts.
“I was kind of all over the place, but I made a good pitch when I needed to,” he said. “I wasn’t making great pitches. There were some pitches I left over the middle of the plate.”
Baker is 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA in six career starts against the Tigers, but is 0-2 with a 4.19 ERA in his last three, including two this season.
Magglio Ordonez, who leads the majors with a .356 batting average, is 7-for-18 (.389) with a homer all-time against him.