DETROIT(AP) Those pesky Twins forced the
to keep their champagne on ice.
got plenty of run support and pitched Minnesota to a testy 8-3 victory on Thursday, 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
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, but their bats were quieted and their pitchers got roughed up in a three-run third inning and a
Tempers flared late in the game, too.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland was ejected during a face-to-face argument with umpire Angel Hernandez in the eighth inning after
Both benches and bullpens emptied in the ninth after Tigers pitcher
in the leg. An angry Young slammed his helmet to the ground and shouted toward the Minnesota dugout, but there was no pushing
Bonderman and Tigers catcher
also got tossed. The Twins ended up blaming one of their own, Mijares, for the dustup.
''It absolutely turned into a bit of a strange game toward the end,'' Leyland said.
The showdown in Motown didn't determine much: Detroit started the series with a two-game lead and ended it with the same tenuous
''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
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
, who end the season at Minnesota.
is slated to start on Saturday.
Detroit, which has owned at least a share of the AL Central lead since May 10, will make history if the Twins finish in first.
No major league team has remained in first place from May 10 - or sooner - until losing the division title in the last week
of a season.
''We're going to the dome for the last weekend and we've still got a shot,'' Twins manager
said. ''We've got to beat the Royals and, 'Come on, Ozzie!' I'm going to leave him a note.''
Baker (15-9) gave up an unearned run and five hits over five innings.
combined to pitch 2 2-3 scoreless innings until Minnesota matched its season high with a fourth error, allowing Detroit to
score a pair of two-out runs that made it 8-3.
(2-3) yielded four runs - three earned - and nine hits in six-plus innings. Rookie
and Fu-Te Ni each struck out a batter in the seventh to get out of a bases-loaded jam, but
each gave up two runs, putting the game out of reach.
Minnesota had plenty of punch at the plate in a game it needed to win to keep hopes alive for rallying in the AL Central as
it did in 2006, when the Twins surged and the Tigers slumped at the end of the season. Detroit finished as the AL wild card
and lost to St. Louis in the World Series.
The Twins went ahead 3-1 in the third on
's RBI single,
's run-scoring single and
's sacrifice fly. They broke the game open in the eighth when
hit a three-run double and Mauer followed with an RBI single to make it 8-1.
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 on Thursday. ''We don't have a problem here with a lack of fans
or a lack of enthusiasm,'' Leyland said. ... 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
did it 14 games in a row in 1986. ... Detroit OF
is hitting an AL-best .415 since Sept. 1. ... Cuddyer drove in his 90th run, joining Mauer, Kubel and
as the first quartet to have 90-plus RBIs in Twins history.