Tigers Beat Twins, Close Within 2 1/2 Games Of Yankees In Wild-Card Race

Saturday, September 15th 2007, 9:33 pm
By: News On 6

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) _ Carlos Guillen and Ivan Rodriguez quickly got to Johan Santana, helping the Detroit Tigers gain ground on the New York Yankees in the AL wild-card race.

Guillen had an RBI single and Rodriguez hit a three-run double in the first inning, and Detroit held on for a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night that pulled the Tigers within 2 1/2 games of New York.

Joel Zumaya (2-3) pitched 1 2-3 hitless innings for the victory in relief of Yorman Bazardo, a 23-year-old right-hander who pitched effectively in his first major league start. Todd Jones got around a two-out walk in the ninth, retiring Jason Bartlett on a game-ending grounder for his 36th save this season and the 299th of his career.

The defending AL champions have won nine of their last 12 games to close on New York, which lost 10-1 at Boston.

Santana (15-12) pitched well after a rough first, allowing four runs and six hits in eight innings with seven strikeouts. The reigning AL Cy Young winner lost for the third time in four starts and dropped to 5-6 since the All-Star break.

Minnesota, which lost for the ninth time in 13 games, closed within a run in the seventh on an unusual play. With runners on first and second and one out, Jason Kubel hit a bouncer back to pitcher Zach Miner, who wheeled and tried to start a double play with a throw to second.

But Miner's throw pulled shortstop Ramon Santiago off the bag, and Kubel beat his relay throw to first base. Nick Punto raced around from second and slid home just ahead of Guillen's throw, and everyone was safe.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland then brought in Zumaya, who induced Joe Mauer to ground into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play on his first pitch.

Mauer, the defending AL batting champ, came to the plate with runners on base in each of his four at-bats, but grounded into two double plays and went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .291.

The heart of Minnesota's order _ Mauer, Torii Hunter and Justin Morneau _ went 0-for-12.

Leyland shuffled his starting rotation this weekend in preparation for what could be an important series against Cleveland, which remained 5 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers in the AL Central. Rookie Jair Jurrjens will start on Sunday so Kenny Rogers can pitch against the Indians on Monday.

Bazardo gave up two runs and four hits in 4 2-3 innings with two strikeouts and two walks. He threw a wild pitch that allowed Punto to score in the third.

Ryan Raburn and Placido Polanco led off the game with back-to-back singles, Magglio Ordonez walked with one out and Guillen blooped a single down the right-field line. Rodriguez just missed a grand slam with a double high off the baggie in right field that cleared the bases.

Notes: Marcus Thames nearly homered off Santana in the fourth, but Kubel hopped at the left-field fence to catch it and keep it from possibly reaching the seats. ... In the bottom of the fourth inning of every game, the Twins welcome a kid into the press box to announce the hitters over the PA system. When DH Garrett Jones came to the plate following Michael Cuddyer, the young boy said, ``The designated hitter Michael Cuddyer ... I mean Garrett Jones! I'm sorry.''