MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Minnesota Twins are starting to wilt in the heat of the pennant race.
Minnesota got another mediocre outing from its starting pitcher, the bullpen failed to get a key out, and the timely hits were again absent in a 7-5 loss to Detroit on Sunday.
Justin Morneau had four RBIs, including a two-run triple, for Minnesota, which has lost five of six. The Twins stayed 2 1/2 games behind first-place Chicago in the AL Central chase. The White Sox lost 3-2 to Los Angeles on Sunday.
“We can’t be tired right now,” said outfielder Denard Span, who had two hits. “You’ve got (19) games left, we’re fighting for a pennant race. There’s no excuses. I don’t think nobody in here would say they’re tired right now. It’s a long season, but this is for everything.”
Ryan, a rookie catcher, hit a two-run homer in his first major league start. Chris Lambert earned his first career victory, and the Tigers won consecutive games for the first time since Aug. 22-23.
For the second straight game, Rodney retired Joe Mauer and Morneau for the final two outs.
“One thing about Rodney is he’s not scared,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of his closer. “He might not always get it done, but he’s not afraid. He doesn’t panic.”
Detroit took two of three in the weekend series, Minnesota’s first home games after a 14-game, 15-day road trip. After an off day Monday, the Twins will welcome Kansas City for three games, followed by a 10-game road trip to Baltimore, Cleveland and Tampa Bay.
“It’s been a long season, we’ve played a lot of baseball and we’ve got (three) weeks left,” shortstop Nick Punto said. “We’ve got to grind this thing out.”
The Twins were 4-for-12 with runners in scoring position for the second consecutive day. Minnesota left 17 runners on base in the two games.
“We’ve got to get back to playing our kind of baseball, consistent baseball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’re where we want to be in a playoff race, but we’ve got to play better baseball.”
Lambert (1-1) allowed three runs in 5 2-3 innings in his third career start. A winner of 12 games at Triple-A Toledo, he looked to be a hard luck loser until the Tigers offense came alive in the sixth.
Cabrera homered leading off—his 1,000th career hit—and Gary Sheffield doubled down the third-base line before scoring on a single by Marcus Thames to tie it at 4. Thames was thrown out at second by Delmon Young.
Minnesota starter Glen Perkins allowed a double off the wall to Edgar Renteria and walked Ryan before he was replaced. Craig Breslow allowed an RBI single to Curtis Granderson before Boof Bonser struck out Placido Polanco to end the inning.
Ordonez led off the seventh with a home run, and Thames added a sacrifice fly.
“It’s another game where we had a lead in a pressure game that we have to win,” Perkins said. “I made a few mistakes, but there was a lot of pitches today that were good pitches. They make you pay if you make mistakes, and sometimes if you make your pitch they’re still going to hit it.”
Minnesota’s struggling bullpen allowed one earned run in 3 1-3 innings, lowering its ERA to 6.16 in the last 15 games.
Tied for the AL lead in wins for a rookie, Perkins (12-4) was unspectacular for the second straight start.
He allowed nine hits and three earned runs in 5 2-3 innings, largely because Detroit hitters often made him work deep counts, and threw 97 pitches. In his previous start, Perkins allowed four earned runs and 10 hits in five innings.
With two outs in the second, Ryan hit the first pitch from Perkins the opposite way over the right-field baggie for a 2-0 lead. It was the first big league hit for Ryan.
“I knew I hit it well, then I looked up and I lost it in the ceiling,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe it, that my first hit was a home run.”
Brian Buscher had an RBI single in the second off Lambert, before Morneau tripled into the right-field corner for a 3-2 Twins lead in the third.
Morneau added a sacrifice fly in the seventh.
Minnesota won the season series 11-7. … Ordonez, who has a 12-game hitting streak, went 20-for-42 (.476) against the Twins this year, including six home runs. … The crowd of 31,236 pushed Minnesota over the two million mark in home attendance for a franchise-best fourth straight season. … Young has 10 of Minnesota’s 33 outfield assists. … Sheffield ended an 0-for-10 slump with his sixth inning double.