MINNEAPOLIS - Ryan Doumit had four RBIs for Minnesota, including the go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning to help the Twins beat Detroit 4-2 on Friday and keep the Tigers from moving any closer to the AL Central title.
The Tigers entered the night with a two-game lead on the Chicago White Sox, who hosted Tampa Bay.
Rookie Drew Smyly struck out five over 5 1-3 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits in a fill-in start for Max Scherzer, but Brayan Villarreal (3-5) walked three (Joe Mauer was intentional) to load the bases in the eighth before Doumit's one-out hit put the Twins in front.
Doumit exploited an error by Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder to start the seventh inning, following with a home run off Phil Coke that made it 2-0. Miguel Cabrera had two hits for the Tigers to raise his league-leading average to .327, but he was thrown out at the plate to end the sixth.
Omar Infante's two-run homer after an error spoiled Scott Diamond's shutout in the eighth, tying the game at 2, and Glen Perkins picked up his 16th save with a perfect ninth inning.
Cabrera got Detroit's first hit off Diamond with two outs in the fourth inning. Then in the sixth he sent a line drive screaming toward right field so hard he thought it was gone, standing to watch it soar before realizing the ball would hit the wall and hustling down the base line. Right fielder Ben Revere, a weak thrower, fired a perfect one-hopper to second to keep Cabrera at first.
Fielder followed with a single, and Cabrera appeared to be upset at himself when he reached second, wondering if he could've had a double that would've allowed him to score. Delmon Young singled to right after that, and Cabrera was determined to give the Tigers their first run. But Revere's throw was strong and on line, beating Cabrera to the plate to end the inning.
After losing in Chicago on Sept. 17 and falling three games behind, the Tigers weren't in good shape. But they gained five games on the White Sox in nine days, entering the weekend in control of the race.
This wasn't the follow-up they were looking for to the four-game sweep of Kansas City this week.
The Twins have been in spoiler mode for months, but there's one race they've still got a stake in: the batting title. Mauer fell five points behind Cabrera by going 0 for 2, but the chase is even more intriguing given Cabrera's legitimate chance to become the first player since 1967 to lead the league in batting, home runs and RBIs in the same season. Cabrera's triple crown depends on holding Mauer off and surpassing Josh Hamilton (42) and Edwin Encarnacion (41) in the home run category. He's gone deep 41 times. He has a comfortable lead in RBIs.
Cabrera had the opportunity to physically affect the batting race competition when the burly slugger came barreling toward home in the sixth, but he slid instead of colliding with the All-Star catcher.
Smyly, the team's second-round draft pick in 2010, made his 18th major league start. He was bumped to the bullpen when the Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez, but he still has a lot of value. He started the second game of the doubleheader last weekend, and when Scherzer was scratched because of a lingering shoulder problem the 23-year-old left-hander got the call again.
Diamond, in three starts against the Tigers this season, has been dominant. Infante's drive was the first homer he gave up against them. Diamond finished 21 innings, allowing only 15 hits and six runs. Manager Jim Leyland, impressed by Diamond's performance in the first game of the doubleheader last Sunday said in the afternoon he thought "all day" about how the Tigers could approach their at-bats against the left-hander differently.
The Twins still have by far the worst starting pitching ERA in the league, but Diamond has at least solidified one spot in the rotation. He has completed five innings or more in 31 of his 33 career starts and lasted at least six in 21 of his 26 appearances this year.
NOTES: Leyland said he's "not counting" on Scherzer making another regular season start, so Smyly would pitch again on Wednesday if Scherzer doesn't improve, even if the Tigers need a win. "Mark this down and take it to the bank: Scherzer won't pitch unless he is physically ready to pitch, under any circumstances," Leyland said. ... The Tigers will send RH Justin Verlander (16-8, 2.72 ERA) to the mound on Saturday afternoon against RH P.J. Walters (2-4, 5.88 ERA). Walters pitched six strong innings against the Tigers last Sunday, allowing one run in the second half of the doubleheader. Verlander, the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, has won six of his last eight starts. ... Twins LF Josh Willingham sat out again with a sore shoulder, unable to swing without discomfort. His season could be over, with the Twins wary of worsening the injury. ... RH Samuel Deduno, pulled from his start on Wednesday in the second inning because of irritation in his left eye, probably won't pitch again this year. "That's not anything to mess with," general manager Terry Ryan said.
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