Tigers push Twins to the brink
DETROIT (AP) -- Magglio Ordonez is supposed to help the Detroit Tigers win titles. Eddie Bonine is a bit of a surprise.
Ordonez hit a three-run double, Bonine lasted five innings after a shaky start and the Tigers beat the Minnesota Twins 7-2 on Wednesday night to move closer to the AL Central title.
"You need everyone on your team to step up right now, and that's what happened tonight," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Bonine was fantastic -- we got more from him than we could have asked -- and the offense gave us the runs he needed."
The Tigers increased their lead to three games over the Twins, and can clinch their first division title since 1987 with a victory in Thursday afternoon's series finale.
"We're trying to look at tomorrow's game like we would any other game," said Brandon Inge, who had a tying two-run double. "But it is human nature to realize what we can do tomorrow. Even if you don't want to think about it, you do."
Detroit finishes the season with a three-game series at home against Chicago. Minnesota returns home to face Kansas City, including an expected matchup with AL Cy Young Award hopeful Zack Greinke.
"It doesn't look very good right now, but it isn't over yet," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I'm not a math guy, but I believe that tomorrow is a must-win situation."
Bonine (1-1), making his ninth career start, allowed two runs in the first but shut down the Twins for the rest of his outing. He gave up seven hits, walked two and struck out three.
"This is a great, great feeling," said Bonine, who earned his first major league win since June 27, 2008. "After the first, I just settled into a groove and tried to attack. The defense made plays and the guys got the big hits."
The Twins put two runners in scoring position in the final eight innings.
"We really didn't do a thing after the first inning," Gardenhire said. "It just didn't work out tonight."
Ordonez's second key hit in consecutive days broke it open in the fifth. The Tigers loaded the bases with one out against Carl Pavano (13-12), who responded by getting Miguel Cabrera to pop up. Ordonez followed with a drive to center to clear the bases and give the Tigers a 7-2 lead.
"That was the killer blow," Leyland said. "Carl's been tough on us all year, and he had popped up Cabrera, so if he gets Magglio, it's a whole different ballgame."
Ordonez, who was booed by Tigers fans during a poor first half, also had a two-run double in Detroit's 6-5 victory Tuesday night that salvaged a split of the key day-night doubleheader.
"No one in this clubhouse has ever turned their back on Maggs," Inge said. "We know what he's done for this franchise, and we knew he was going to do even more."
Pavano allowed seven runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings. He was 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five previous starts against Detroit this year.
"I needed to step up, and I didn't do the job," said Pavano, who would be Minnesota's likely starter if the Twins force a playoff Tuesday at the Metrodome. "They gave me two runs, and that should have been enough. I hope I'll still get a chance to redeem myself."
Bonine was hurt in the first by another defensive mistake by center fielder Curtis Granderson, who misplayed a ball in the ninth inning Tuesday night that helped the Twins pull within one.
Bonine retired leadoff hitter Denard Span, but Orlando Cabrera, Joe Mauer and Jason Kubel followed with consecutive singles to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. Michael Cuddyer walked before Delmon Young lifted a fly ball to deep center field. Granderson turned the wrong way, allowing the ball to sail over his head, but recovered quickly enough to hold the Twins to one run and Jose Morales hit into an inning-ending double play.
"That double play was the turning point of the game," Bonine said.
The Tigers quickly erased the deficit, scoring four times in the second. Inge had a tying two-run double and Ramon Santiago singled in a pair of runs.
E Gardenhire toured the clubhouse after the game, giving individual pep talks to his players.
- Leyland said before the game that rookie Alberto Figaro would start Saturday against Chicago -- his first start since a wrist injury put him on the disabled list in late June.
- The game drew 34,775 fans. Despite the pennant race, the Tigers haven't had a home sellout since July 25, but Leyland understands the tough economic times in Detroit. "This crowd was great, just like every crowd we've had in this series," he said, choking up. "These fans in this city are awfully special."