EditorsNote: updates third graf with Rangers’ win
Mauer powers Twins in rout Tigers
DETROIT — Joe Mauer is just as hot as the Minnesota Twins.
Mauer and three other Twins drove in two runs apiece Thursday night to help Minnesota improve its lead in the battle for the second American League wild-card spot with a 12-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Byron Buxton, Max Kepler and Jason Castro also had two-RBI nights for the Twins, who are 2 1/2 games ahead of the Los Angeles Angels and the Texas Rangers.
Mauer, who had three hits, doubled home two runs with a two-out liner over the left fielder’s head off reliever Victor Alcantara in the sixth and scored on a line single off first baseman Miguel Cabrera’s glove by Jorge Polanco to give Minnesota a 7-1 edge.
The double was the 400th of his career, second on Minnesota’s all-time list. Scoring twice let him tie Rod Carew for third on that all-time Minnesota list.
“You start talking about Rod Carew, you’re doing something right,” Mauer said. “It’s pretty neat for me to hear some of these names, approaching or tying or whatever.
“I grew up in Minnesota, rooted on the Twins. I’m starting to get up there in the ranks with some of my favorite players, some of my favorite people. It’s exciting, fun and humbling all at the same time.”
Mauer is hitting .404 over his last 40 games with 26 RBIs and 22 runs scored.
“He leads with his demeanor, with his play, with his consistency. His 400th double, and tying Carew on the Twins’ all-time run list,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said. “Those are pretty special accomplishments. He never points the finger at himself in terms of where the credit goes. He’s a pleasure to manage.”
“He’s kind of a throwback, Tony Gwynn style,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said of Minnesota’s first baseman. “He has a little more power than Tony but a similar style of hitter.”
Minnesota was swept by the Yankees in New York, but at a time when the Los Angeles Angels were getting swept by Cleveland.
“If we can just worry about the one in hand,” Mauer said, “I think we’re going to be OK. We’ve still got some work to do. We put ourselves in a good position and let’s worry about what we can control.”
Adalberto Mejia was pulled one out shy of lasting long enough to get credit for the victory, which went to Twins’ reliever Dillon Gee (3-2) for his 1 1/3 scoreless innings of relief. Mejia struck out five and allowed one run on four hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings.
Gee gave up a hit and struck out two. Ryan Pressly didn’t give up a run in the seventh and eighth, and Matt Belisle completed the game with a scoreless ninth.
Robbie Grossman’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly off reliever Myles Jaye in the seventh put the Twins ahead 8-1. Kepler’s two-run double an inning later off Jaye gave Minnesota a 10-1 lead, a margin that went to 12-1 on Castro’s double off reliever Zac Reininger over the left fielder’s head in the same inning.
Earlier, Eddie Rosario singled in a run with the bases loaded in the fifth off reliever Warwick Saupold to put the Twins up 4-1.
Minnesota took a 3-1 lead in the fourth off Jordan Zimmermann (8-13). Eduardo Escobar stroked a one-out RBI double to left and Buxton grounded a two-run single up the middle with two outs.
Detroit struck first with a run in the third. Jose Iglesias doubled to right-center and scored on a one-out double to extreme left by rookie Jeimer Candelario.
Zimmermann lasted four innings in his first start since Sept. 2, allowing three runs on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts. He had been sidelined because of neck and shoulder pain.
“I thought he looked good coming out of the gate,” Ausmus said. “His fastball looked good. He threw some good breaking balls.
“I didn’t want to go too deep in terms of pitch count but I thought he threw the ball very well. It definitely was encouraging.
“He looked pretty free and easy. He didn’t look like his neck was hampering him at all.”
The Tigers have lost four straight and still need to win one more game to avoid a 100-loss season.
“We’re going to grind it out,” Ausmus said. “We’re playing some teams that are in the hunt and we’re going to play it straight up. As long as they’re in the hunt we’re going to try and beat them on a nightly basis.”
NOTES: Minnesota manager Paul Molitor is doubtful 3B Miguel Sano (left shin) will return by the end of the regular season. Sano has been out since Aug. 19. ... 3B Jeimer Candelario had three throwing errors in his first 20 games with Detroit, and manager Brad Ausmus said he feels they are mistakes that will be cured by experience. ... Twins RHP Bartolo Colon was bounced early in two of his past three starts, but Molitor is “expecting him to bounce back” in his next start Tuesday in Cleveland. ... Tigers RF Nicholas Castellanos went 0-for-4, ending his hitting streak at 17 games.