DETROIT (AP) — With a postseason berth tantalizingly close, the Minnesota Twins snapped out of their mini-slump in emphatic fashion.
Joe Mauer and Jorge Polanco had three hits each, and the Twins extended their lead for the American League's second wild card by beating the Detroit Tigers 12-1 on Thursday night. Minnesota is 2 ½ games ahead of the Angels in the race for the AL's final postseason spot. Los Angeles lost earlier in the day to Cleveland .
The Twins had lost five of six coming into the night, including a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees, but they routed a depleted Detroit team that is 4-17 in September after trading Justin Verlander and Justin Upton.
"As a whole in this season, it's been pretty impressive," Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. "Staying away from the long losing streaks, coming back from some tough losses and some tough stretches and getting back to playing winning baseball, for the most part."
Minnesota is trying to make the postseason for the first time since 2010. The Twins lost 103 games last year.
Adalberto Mejia fell one out short of a win, allowing a run and four hits in 4 2/3 innings. Dillon Gee (3-2) was credited with a victory in relief.
Jordan Zimmermann (8-13) yielded three runs and five hits in four innings in his first start since Sept. 2. He's been dealing with neck issues for much of his two years with the Tigers.
"This was probably the best location and best velocity I've had in two years. I felt great," Zimmermann said. "The ball was coming out good. It was going right where I wanted it to. It was the best I've felt in two years. I didn't really know what to expect this start, but the ball was coming out free and easy."
Byron Buxton gave the Twins a 3-1 lead with a two-run single in the fourth, and Minnesota scored another run in the fifth. Mauer added a two-run double in the sixth and scored on a single by Polanco.
Max Kepler and Jason Castro hit two-run doubles in the eighth to make it 12-1.
Eduardo Escobar scored three runs for Minnesota.
Detroit's Nicholas Castellanos ended his 17-game hitting streak.
The highlight for the Tigers may have come courtesy of their bat boy, who was seated in front of the dugout when he calmly reached out his right arm and barehanded a sharply hit foul ball off the bat of Detroit's Efren Navarro in the eighth.
EASING BACK INTO IT
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus pulled Zimmermann after 69 pitches, and the game got out of hand after he left. Minnesota ended up with 14 hits and drew 10 walks.
"I thought he was starting to get tired a little bit. I didn't want to push it," Ausmus said. "I thought it was a good first step back."
Mejia threw only 79 pitches for Minnesota. This was his second start back after missing over a month with a left arm strain. He went three innings against Toronto on Saturday.
He was taken out in the fifth with one on and Miguel Cabrera coming up.
"Absolutely, I understand why," Mejia said through a translator. "It's situational baseball."
Twins: Molitor said there's been no discussion of any shutdown date for All-Star 3B Miguel Sano, who is out with a left shin injury. "Without being flippant, there's no certainty on how long we might play," Molitor said. "He's got to keep working like he's got a chance."
Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (11-10) takes the mound Friday night against Detroit. He is 5-2 with a 3.25 ERA since being recalled from the minors in early August.
Tigers: LHP Daniel Norris (4-7) starts for Detroit.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister