Long eliminated from the American League Central race, the last-place Minnesota Twins still have plenty to play for heading into their final five games.
“We’re pitching for our jobs next year,” reliever Tyler Duffey said after picking up his 20th hold of the season with a scoreless inning of relief Tuesday night in a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers in Minneapolis. “We’re playing for the fans that are here. We still want to win no matter where we’re at in the division. Hopefully next year we’re having some different conversations.”
Minnesota (70-87) had won back-to-back AL Central titles entering the season. Now the Twins, hurt by a number of injuries early in the season, have more simplistic goals, such as trying to avoid the 90-loss mark and posting back-to-back months with a winning record.
Minnesota went 14-13 in August for its first winning month of the season, an impressive feat considering it included series wins over AL West leader Houston, AL Central champion Chicago, AL East champ Tampa Bay, NL Central winner Milwaukee as well as likely AL Central runner-up Cleveland.
The Twins head into the second game of their three-game series with Detroit with a 12-13 mark in September and need to sweep the Tigers to finish the month with a winning mark.
“We’re trying to win,” Duffey said. “We just played Toronto seven times in (10 days) and those guys are trying to make the playoffs. Being a spoiler at this point.”
The Twins spoiled Detroit’s goal of finishing with a .500 record on Tuesday night as Miguel Sano hit his 30th homer. Duffey and five other pitchers combined to blank the Tigers (75-82) for 8 2/3 innings until a pair of ex-Twins, Akil Baddoo and Jonathan Schoop, had back-to-back two-out RBI singles off Alex Colome in the ninth. Colome bounced back to strike out Robbie Grossman to end the game for his 17th save and 15th since Aug. 1.
Sano led off the seventh inning with a 410-foot drive deep into the second deck in left off reliever Jose Urena to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead. Sano joined Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew (eight), Justin Morneau (three), Bob Allison (two), Gary Gaetti (two), Tom Brunansky (two) and Brian Dozier (two) as the only players in Twins history with multiple 30-homer seasons.
“It’s a big swing,” Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I’m not surprised to see him hitting 30 home runs again. He’s a major league ballplayer. Hitting 30 home runs is part of what he does.”
Rookie right-hander Casey Mize (7-8, 3.63 ERA), limited to three innings or fewer in each of his last four starts as he closes in on the 150-inning mark, will start for Detroit in Wednesday night’s game while right-handed veteran Michael Pineda (8-8, 3.73) will start for Minnesota.
Pineda, who is 4-2 with a 3.81 ERA in 10 career starts against the Tigers, has been on a roll since coming off the injured list on Sept. 6, winning all four of his starts and allowing three runs or fewer in each of them.
The loss to the Twins on Tuesday marked the third consecutive one-run defeat for Detroit, with all three losses featuring late comebacks by the Tigers that came up short.
“It’s not ideal,” Detroit manager AJ Hinch said of his team’s slow starts. “We haven’t gotten into games very quickly. … We have to get into games better if we want to win some of these next five.”
–Field Level Media