“It doesn’t matter how many losses they have,” Milton said. “I didn’t have a win this year coming into this game.”
Milton changed that by winning a regular-season game for the first time in more than a year and the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins posted their seventh straight victory, beating the Tigers 6-2 Friday night.
The Twins cut their magic number to six over Chicago. The White Sox beat Kansas City and stayed 3 1/2 games behind.
Detroit lost its seventh in a row. The Tigers (38-115) need at least five wins in their last nine games to avoid matching the modern era record of 120 losses by the 1962 New York Mets.
Milton (1-0), making his second start of the year after missing five months with a knee injury, was dominant in earning his first regular-season win since Aug. 1, 2002.
He gave up just two hits and walked none in seven shutout innings. Last year, he beat Oakland in Game 4 in the first round of the playoffs.
Friday night, he’d only thrown 77 pitches through seven innings, but the Twins resisted the temptation to let him continue.
“I could have just kept letting him go out there, but my pitching coach has a little more sense than I do,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He looks like he’s in complete command out there. It looks effortless. It doesn’t even look like he’s sweating out there.”
Milton has pitched 12 innings without a walk since his return.
“What’s fun is watching Milty now, he’s pitching,” Twins pitching coach Rick Anderson said. “In the past when he was (throwing) 93-94-95 (mph), he’d sometimes turn into a thrower, but you watch him now and he’s locating, changing speeds—he’s a complete pitcher.”
Rookie Jeremy Bonderman (6-19) was tagged for 10 hits and five runs in 3 1-3 innings. He lost in his first start since being pulled from the rotation after a loss on Aug. 28.
“I don’t want to come out (of the rotation),” Bonderman said. “I don’t care what happens, I just want to play.”
Milton left the game with a 5-0 lead, but the Tigers broke through for two runs in the eighth off reliever Jesse Orosco.
The Twins scored single runs in the second and third innings before chasing Bonderman in a three-run fourth.
After that, it was up to Milton, who was told in spring training he shouldn’t expect to pitch again this year following his March knee surgery. But five months of sweat and patience have culminated in a successful return, much to the relief of his teammates.
The Twins’ biggest pitching concern now appears to be which of their streaking starters to leave out of the rotation if they reach the playoffs. Gardenhire refused to speculate on the postseason with the division still undecided, but his counterpart wasn’t terribly sympathetic to his plight.
“I’m sure Gardy’s feeling pretty good about that,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “It’s a good option to have. To me, that would be a niceproblem to have.”
The Tigers turned three double plays and lead the majors with 180 this season. … Bonderman leads the staff with 106 strikeouts, and could become just the sixth Detroit rookie—and first since Felipe Lira in 1995—to leadthe team in strikeouts.