Those pesky Twins forced the Detroit Tigers to keep their champagne on ice.
DETROIT - Those pesky Twins forced the Detroit Tigers to keep their champagne on ice.
Scott Baker got plenty of run support and pitched Minnesota to a testy 8-3 victory yesterday, preventing the Tigers from clinching their first division title in 22 years.
Minnesota avoided elimination from the playoff race and moved within two games of the first-place Tigers with three to play.
"We just didn't want to see them celebrating," Twins outfielder Denard Span said.
The teams wound up splitting their crucial four-game series. The Tigers had a chance to wrap up their first division crown since 1987 in the finale - they were a wild card when they went to the World Series in 2006 - but their bats were quieted and their pitchers got roughed up in a three-run third inning and a four-run eighth.
Tempers flared late in the game.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was ejected during an argument with umpire Angel Hernandez in the eighth inning after Minnesota's Jose Mijares threw behind
Both benches and bullpens emptied in the ninth after Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman plunked Delmon Young in the leg.
An angry Young slammed his helmet to the ground and shouted toward his own dugout. The Twins ended up admitting that Mijares was out of line in throwing at Everett.
There was no pushing or punching. Bonderman and Tigers catcher Gerald Laird also got tossed.
The showdown in Motown didn't determine much: Detroit started the series with a two-game lead and ended it with the same cushion.
"We controlled our own destiny today and we had a chance to clinch it out, but you have to give them credit," Laird said.
"We're still two games up with three to play, and we're in the driver's seat. We just have to play good baseball like we have at home, take it to the White Sox and we'll be celebrating."
The Twins and Tigers are fighting for baseball's final playoff spot. The race won't be decided until this weekend - or early next week if a tiebreaker is necessary.
Minnesota has clinched the season series and would host an extra game if needed, likely on Tuesday, because the Vikings play an NFL game Monday night at the Metrodome against the Green Bay Packers.
If Detroit beats the Chicago White Sox twice at home, it would win the division.
If not, the Tigers would need some help from the last-place Kansas City Royals.
Royals ace Zack Greinke is slated to start Saturday.
Yesterday, Baker (15-9) gave up an unearned run and five hits over five innings.
Jon Rauch, Ron Mahay, and Matt Guerrier combined to pitch 22/3 scoreless innings until Minnesota matched its season high with a fourth error, allowing Detroit to score a pair of runs.
Tigers starter Nate Robertson (2-3) yielded four runs and nine hits in six-plus innings. Rookie Ryan Perry and Fu-Te Ni each struck out a batter in the seventh to get out of a jam, but Casey Fien and Bobby Seay each gave up two runs, putting the game out of reach.
NOTES: The Tigers, who rank fourth in the AL in attendance despite the Motor City's poor economy, drew 40,533 for their first sellout since July 25 thanks to selling about 7,000 tickets yesterday. "We don't have a problem here with a lack of fans or a lack of enthusiasm," Leyland said. ... Orlando Cabrera has hit safely and scored in 12 straight games for the longest such streak in the majors this season and the longest for the Twins since Kirby Puckett did it 14 games in a row in 1986. ... Detroit outfielder Magglio Ordonez is hitting an AL-best .415 since Sept. 1. ... Michael Cuddyer drove in his 90th run, joining Mauer, Kubel and Justin Morneau as the first quartet to have 90-plus RBIs in Twins history.
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