Twins get split decision
DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander kept the Detroit Tigers on top in the AL Central, pitching eight innings in a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night that salvaged a split of their critical doubleheader.
Detroit increased its division lead to two over Minnesota, which won the day game 3-2 in 10 innings, with two games left in the series and five to go in the regular season.
Verlander (18-9) gave up four runs and eight hits. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 36th save in 37 chances, overcoming some shaky defense that allowed Minnesota to pull within a run.
Brian Duensing (5-2) gave up five runs over 4Xc innings for the Twins, who had a chance to at least tie the game in the eighth and ninth.
Delmon Young started the Minnesota ninth with an infield single. Rodney retired the next two batters and Nick Punto followed with a fly ball to center that Curtis Granderson misjudged, allowing it to go over his head and helping the Twins pull within a run.
Rodney then got Denard Span to hit a game-ending fly to left.
And, the Motor City exhaled.
Detroit, coming close to falling into a tie for the division lead, finished the day in the same position it was at the start of the doubleheader, delighting the crowd of 30,240.
If the Tigers can beat the Twins on Wednesday and Thursday, they'll win their first division title since 1987. If Detroit doesn't take the next two games at home, the AL Central won't be decided until the weekend -- or early next week.
Minnesota has clinched the season series and would host the tiebreaker if one is necessary, likely on Tuesday because Brett Favre and the Vikings are playing Green Bay on Monday night at the Metrodome.
"This is playoff baseball -- we just got started a little early this year," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Verlander set the tone early in the nightcap, retiring the side on swinging strikeouts in the second as part of a dominating stretch in which he retired 10 straight. He finished with eight strikeouts.
Miguel Cabrera helped out offensively in the second inning, hitting a no-doubt homer to left. Magglio Ordonez, who started the day hitting an AL-best .408 in September, put Detroit ahead 3-0 in the third with a sharply hit double.
Detroit's Brandon Inge -- the first to face Bobby Keppel -- hit a two-run single in the fifth inning for a 5-0 lead.
The consistently scrappy Twins pulled within three in the sixth on Orlando Cabrera's RBI single and Jason Kubel's sacrifice fly.
The Twins had their star, Joe Mauer, at the plate with two on and one out in the eighth. Verlander threw a wild pitch, allowing the runners to advance to scoring position, and Mauer hit a run-scoring groundout. Jason Kubel followed with an RBI double to get Minnesota within one.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland visited the mound and after Verlander shouted some words into his glove, the ace remained in the game.
Verlander got Michael Cuddyer to ground out, getting assists from Inge charging in from third and Cabrera, who caught the low throw at first.
Granderson hit his 30th homer in the eighth to give Detroit a two-run cushion.
The Tigers wish they were as productive at the plate during the day.
Orlando Cabrera hit a go-ahead single in the 10th inning of the opener, leading Minnesota to the win.
Brandon Lyon (6-5) helped the Twins by throwing consecutive wild pitches after throwing only one previously all season. Jon Rauch (4-1) earned the win and Joe Nathan picked up his career-high 45th save.
NOTES: Verlander threw a season-high 129 pitches. ... Granderson also homered in the day game. ... 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, according to STATS LLC. ... Mauer decided to catch the second game instead of serving as the team's DH. "Joe came in and told me he was good to go. When Joe Mauer says he's catching, I'm not going to argue with him," Gardenhire said.