Twins catcher Joe Mauer tags out the Tigers' Carlos Guillen after he struck out in the ninth inning Saturday in Minneapolis.
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Sooner or later, Jim Leyland knew his Detroit Tigers' winning streak over the Minnesota Twins was going to come to an end.
He's been in the game too long to expect that kind of dominance to continue, but it sure was fun while it lasted. Now that it's over, it's time for the Tigers to start another one.
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 Saturday, snapping Detroit's 11-game winning streak over Minnesota.
The Tigers had not lost to the Twins since Sept. 1 of last year, including a 7-0 start to the 2011 season that helped push the two-time defending AL Central division champions seven games behind the Tigers.
"That's not going to keep happening," Leyland said. "We knew that. That's a good team over there and they're playing pretty good right now."
Baker's return sparked a superb all-around game from the pitching staff.
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.
"I like to beat these guys," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We needed a win today. That was big. They've played better than us up to this point and we're still trying to catch them. Today really would have made it tougher on us if we would've lost."
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.
Jhonny Peralta hit a one-out double off Nathan in the ninth inning, but Carlos Guillen struck out and Alex Avila grounded out to first to end the game.
The Tigers also had a leadoff double from Andy Dirks in the eighth inning as they tried to mount a comeback. But Perkins got Brennan Boesch to ground out to first base, then struck out Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera to get out of it unscathed.
"That's a good team," Penny said. "They're more patient right now and I wasn't taking advantage of that and I was getting behind a little bit. That's a tough team and they'll be fighting the whole way."
Baker missed his previous two starts with a strained elbow. 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. The Twins wanted to limit him to 75-80 pitches, so Baker left after five with his pitch count at 82.
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.
"His control early betrayed him a little bit, but after that he settled in and pitched a whale of a game," Leyland said. "He gave us a shot."
The Tigers have a recent history of playing poorly in the second half of the season, and the Twins have been one of the primary beneficiaries.
But they have looked like an entirely different team against the Twins this season, so one loss wasn't about to shake their confidence as they prepare for what is expected to be another air-tight stretch run.
"They played a good baseball game," Dirks said with a shrug. "We came out and couldn't get anything going offensively most of the day. That's baseball."
NOTES: 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 Saturday. ... Penny's loss was his first in seven starts against AL Central opponents this season. ... The Tigers failed to homer for just the second time in eight games against the Twins this year.