Twins and Tigers: To the last day we go
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Nick Punto's voice was hoarse and he strained to describe how the Minnesota Twins have rallied from seven games down in less than a month to push the AL Central race to the final day.
"It's been Game 7 for the last two weeks," Punto croaked.
And, thanks in large part to Michael Cuddyer, for one more day.
Cuddyer hit a solo home run in the eighth inning, lifting the Twins to a thrilling 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals on Saturday that moved them into a tie with first-place Detroit.
"This is what it's all about," Cuddyer said. "When you break spring training, you hope to experience this. All 162 games are going to count. You can't go wrong with that."
The Tigers lost 5-1 to the Chicago White Sox. Sunday is the final day of the regular season.
Joe Mauer delivered his biggest hit in an MVP-caliber season, a two-out single off Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke that broke a scoreless tie in the sixth. Delmon Young added a three-run double later in the inning for a 4-0 lead.
After the Twins bullpen let the Royals tie it, Cuddyer hit his 31st homer of the season off Dusty Hughes (0-2).
"What we've done and the run we've had up to this point has been pretty special," said manager Ron Gardenhire, whose Twins have won 15 of 19 to surge back into contention. "These guys really have just huge hearts out there."
Former AL MVP Justin Morneau was shelved for the season by the Twins on Sept. 12 because of a back injury. Cuddyer moved from right field to first base to fill in and has responded by hitting .352 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in 19 games since.
Jon Rauch (5-1) went one inning for the win and Joe Nathan got a brilliant diving catch from Denard Span in right field to help him pick up his 47th save.
"Nothing amazes me anymore," Gardenhire said. "I take that back, this team amazes me because of the courage they're showing."
DETROIT (AP) -- Detroit is in danger of becoming the only team in baseball history to be in first place on May 10 and stay atop a division until losing the title in the last week.
"If we don't win, shame on us," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said hours before gametime.
Then, the Twins beat Kansas City 5-4 and their 85-76 record now equals Detroit's in the race for the only playoff spot a team from the division will earn.
"We've played 161 games and it's amazing to see it come down to one day like this," Detroit catcher Gerald Laird said. "If you're not nervous, why are you even here?"
Freddy Garcia said the Tigers -- who have lost three straight and six of nine -- are playing uptight.
"They got to play more relaxed," said Garcia, who played for the Tigers last season. "If you can't relax in a situation like this, you're not going to make anything happen."
Garcia (3-4) gave up one run, six hits and struck out seven in seven-plus innings.
"Freddy always kicks it up a notch in big games," Chicago manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Even if this wasn't big for us, it was big for baseball."