MINNEAPOLIS — Scott Baker pitched five scoreless innings and the Twins bullpen came through with four solid innings of relief in a 4-1 victory over the Tigers on Saturday, snapping Detroit’s 11-game winning streak over Minnesota.
Baker (8-5) allowed three hits and struck out five in his first start since July 5. Anthony Swarzak, Phil Dumatrait and Glen Perkins bridged the gap to Joe Nathan, who picked up his seventh save.
Danny Valencia homered and Delmon Young added a two-run double for the Twins, who had not beaten Detroit since Sept. 1 of last year.
Brad Penny (7-7) gave up four runs and seven hits in seven innings for the Tigers, who got two hits and an RBI from Miguel Cabrera but not much else on offense.
It was a big win mentally for the Twins as much as anything. The Tigers won the first seven games of this season, including the first two of this series to push the Twins seven games back in the AL Central.
Baker missed his previous two starts with a strained elbow. He was scratched from his final start before the All-Star break, then he gave the team a little surprise last Sunday when he told them he still wasn’t sure if he was ready to get back on the mound.
Baker said he felt as if he could pitch if he had to, but his hesitation was enough for the Twins to put him on the disabled list and give him a few more days.
He didn’t appear to miss a beat in his first game back. Baker breezed through five innings, allowing just one runner past first base as the Twins built a 4-0 lead.
Before the game, manager Ron Gardenhire said Baker would not be held to a pitch count as a precaution, but he was pulled after just 82 pitches, putting even more pressure on an already overworked bullpen.
No matter on this day. Swarzak gave up a run-scoring double to Cabrera in the sixth, but Perkins fanned Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera in the eighth and Nathan stranded one runner at second for the win.
Penny didn’t look nearly as sharp as Baker, but he twice avoided the big inning to keep the Tigers in striking distance.
Valencia hit his solo homer an estimated 403 feet into the second deck in left field for a 2-0 lead in the second inning and Young had a two-run double in the fourth.
But the Twins left plenty of runs on the bases. They squandered a two-on, nobody-out situation in the third, and Penny got Ben Revere to ground into a double play to limit the fourth inning to just two runs.
NOTES: SS Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who has been struggling mightily at the plate, was the only Twins player to have two hits. ... Michael Cuddyer’s RBI single in the first provided the other run for the Twins. ... Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta entered the game with a .432 average in 12 career games at Target Field, including five homers and 15 RBIs. He went 2 for 4 with a single and a double on Saturday.