MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The task is clear for the first-place Minnesota Twins.
“We just have to go beat everybody we play. We know that if we win every game, they can’t catch us,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after his team beat the Detroit Tigers 7-3 Saturday.
The Twins cut their magic number for winning the AL Central to five with their eighth straight victory and 11th in 12 home games. Minnesota extended its lead over second-place Chicago to four games. The White Sox were scheduled to play Kansas City later Saturday.
Detroit lost its eighth straight and fell to 18-59 on the road this season. The Tigers (38-116) must win five of their final eight games to avoid tying the post-1900 record for losses in a season. Only the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics (36-117) and 1962 New York Mets (40-120) have lost more games than Detroit.
Santana (12-3) gave up three earned runs on four hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out five and walked two, the first walks issued by a Twins starter in 30 2-3 innings during the homestand.
The game followed a pattern all too familiar to the Tigers: fall behind early, scratch back, but come up short.
“It’s not easy being down in the first inning 3-0,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “We had a chance to get out with no runs, but a bad pitch to Koskie didn’t let that happen.”
After a wild pitch, Koskie scored on a single by Torii Hunter.
“I had two strikes on Koskie, but I couldn’t get my slider down and he hit it,” Robertson said. “It set the tone. My last four or five starts, I’ve given up runs in the first inning. It’s real important to not do that.”
After cruising through the first three innings, Santana labored a bit and couldn’t get out of the sixth, as Dmitri Young and Craig Monroe drove in runs to cut the Twins’ lead to 6-3. Gardenhire pulled Santana after 106 pitches.
“They made me throw a lot of pitches because they were swinging and making foul balls, and then—just like that—I was out of the game,” Santana said. “I didn’t even know I had over 100 pitches today because I felt good.”
Robertson struck out four and gave up six earned runs on six hits in five innings. He is winless in four starts since his first major league victory on Aug. 29.
LeCroy had three hits, including a double in the third and a two-run homer in the fifth, and finished with three RBIs. Mohr added his 10th home run of the year, and Doug Mientkiewicz scored three runs.
Monroe led off the fifth with his 20th homer. He hit 20 in the minor leagues in 2000 and ’01. He also doubled twice and drove in two runs.
The only real suspense came when Twins shortstop Cristian Guzman was hit by a pitch in the eighth, the third Minnesota player to be hit in the game. Guzman took a couple of steps toward pitcher Matt Roney and a few players spilled out of the dugouts before Gardenhire restrained Guzman and calmed him down.
“We know their young guys weren’t trying to hit anybody,” Gardenhire said. “We can’t afford any fights, we can’t get suspended right now. We’re trying to do some things here.”
So are the Tigers—namely, trying to avoid a setting an embarrassing record.
“I don’t feel any different today than I did after (loss) 100 or 110,” Trammell said. “I’ve been through this. It’s not a season we wanted, but we’re well past that. It’s part of our makeup now. It’s the way I am; my voice issort of hoarse because I’m always talking to the team.”
Twins catcher A.J. Pierzynski was not in the starting lineup, ending his streak of consecutive starts at 21. He was replaced by LeCroy. The game started less than 14 hours after Friday night’s game ended. Pierzynski was 4-for-4 with a home run Friday, and hit .366 over the 21-game stretch. … Minnesota is 13-1 against Detroit after winning 14 of 18 games vs. the Tigers last season. … The crowd of 26,903 put Minnesota ahead of last year’sattendance pace for the first time since early in the season.