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Twins can't maintain early lead as Tigers roar back

DETROIT (AP) -- Alex Avila hit a three-run homer in the second inning and Ramon Santiago added a two-run shot in the fourth to help the Detroit Tigers rally for their seventh straight victory, 8-4 over the Minnesota Twins on Friday night.

Brad Penny (10-10) allowed four runs in the top of the first but settled down after that and Detroit was able to slug its way back from the early deficit. The first-place Tigers have won 17 of 21 and reduced their magic number to clinch the AL Central to 11.

Kevin Slowey (0-5) allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings.

Penny allowed four runs and five hits in five innings.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland said before the game he'd talked to Penny about picking up the pace a bit on the mound and not working so slowly. Of course, outs are the only real way to speed up the game, and the right-hander had a hard time getting them in the first inning. After a 51-minute rain delay at the start of the game, Jason Kubel hit an RBI single, Danny Valencia followed with a two-run triple, and Chris Parmelee added an RBI single to make it 4-0.

In Penny's previous start, Detroit rallied from an 8-1 deficit to beat the Chicago White Sox 9-8, and the Tigers didn't stay down for long in this one. Avila started the comeback with an opposite-field homer, his 18th of the season. Then, in the fourth, Wilson Betemit tied it with an RBI triple.

Santiago followed with his fifth homer of the season to make it 6-4. He's hit four of those homers since Aug. 14 -- about the time Detroit began pulling away from the rest of the division.

Delmon Young -- traded from the Twins to the Tigers last month -- added a solo homer in the fifth to make it 7-4. Young has eight homers on the season, including four in only 23 games with Detroit.

Brandon Inge hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 8-4, denying Jose Valverde a chance to set a new franchise record for saves. Valverde has 42 this season, equaling Todd Jones' mark from 2000.

Valverde pitched the ninth anyway.

Twins' Triple-A manager, hitting coach fired

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins fired Triple-A Rochester manager Tom Nieto and hitting coach Floyd Rayford on Friday, the first collateral damage from the big club's massively disappointing season.

Nieto, a former Twins catcher, lost at least 90 games in both of his seasons at the helm. He finished with a record of 102-186, including 53-91 in 2011.