DETROIT — Max Kepler drove in two runs with a home run and a single, and Byron Buxton had a two-run double to help the Minnesota Twins protect their wild-card lead with a 7-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
Detroit, which announced before the game that manager Brad Ausmus won’t return as its manager next season, has now lost five straight.
Minnesota entered play Friday with a 2 1/2-game edge on the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers for the American League’s No. 2 wild-card berth.
Kyle Gibson (12-10) earned the win with seven innings of work in which he allowed three runs on five hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
Trevor Hildenberger pitched the eighth and Matt Belisle the ninth.
Brian Dozier hit his 32nd home run with two outs and nobody on in the ninth off Detroit closer Shane Greene, who is reduced these days to pitching when the Tigers are trailing just to get in some work. Dozier’s blow to left made it 7-3.
Doubles by Buxton and Robbie Grossman off reliever Drew VerHagen in the sixth boosted the Twins’ lead to 6-2, a margin that was shaved to 6-3 when the Tigers’ Ian Kinsler led off the sixth with his 21st home run, a drive to left off Gibson.
Minnesota chased starter Daniel Norris (4-8) in the second on Eduardo Escobar’s RBI single, off a curve he waited on and lined solidly to left with two outs, driving in Dozier, to make it 5-2.
The Twins scored three times off Norris in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead, Buxton getting a two-run double into the left field corner and Kepler lining an RBI single to left.
JaCoby Jones singled to start the third for the Tigers and sped all the way to third on a soft groundout to third by Jose Iglesias. He scored to give Detroit a 2-1 lead when Kinsler dropped a single to short center over a drawn-in infield.
Detroit took a 1-0 lead when Nicholas Castellanos opened the second inning with his 25th home run, but Minnesota tied it when Kepler led off the third with his 19th homer.
Norris lasted 4 2/3 innings in his return to the rotation, allowing five runs on seven hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
NOTES: Tigers’ GM Al Avila announced Friday that Brad Ausmus will not return as manager in 2018. He will finish out the season, however. ... 1B Joe Mauer probably will play in each of the Twins’ final eight games. He might DH in day games following night games. ... Rookie 3B Jeimer Candelario singled in the first inning and has reached base in 20 of his 21 games with Detroit. ... Minnesota CF Byron Buxton has been successful on his last 22 stolen base tries and is 27-for-28 this season.