DETROIT -- The Twins boosted their chance at making the postseason for the first time since 2010 with a 12-1 win over the Tigers, powered by a three-hit game from Joe Mauer and a two-run single from Byron Buxton to snap a three-game losing streak on Thursday night at Comerica Park.
With the Angels losing to the Indians earlier in the day, the Twins have a 2 1/2-game lead for the second AL Wild Card spot with nine games remaining, including six against the Tigers.
"It was a good bounceback win," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We got a lot of contributions. Joe set the tone for us with an early knock and a leadoff single in the fourth that led to a couple runs. And Byron picked us up."
Veteran right-hander Jordan Zimmermann made his first start since Sept. 2 for the Tigers, but struggled in his return. Zimmermann, who has been dealing with neck issues, lasted four innings, allowing three runs on five hits. All three runs came in the fourth, keyed by an RBI double from Eduardo Escobar and Buxton's two-run single.
"I thought he was starting to get tired a little bit," manager Brad Ausmus said of Zimmermann. "I thought it was a good first step back."
Rookie left-hander Adalberto Mejia, in his second outing since missing a month with a left biceps strain, was mostly solid, but was lifted after 4 2/3 innings after throwing 79 pitches. He gave up one run on four hits with five strikeouts. The lone run came on a double from Jeimer Candelario.
Minnesota continued to tack on runs against Detroit's bullpen with Eddie Rosario singling home a run in the fifth, Mauer providing a two-run double and scoring on a single from Jorge Polanco in the sixth and Robbie Grossman adding a sacrifice fly in the seventh. Max Kepler and Jason Castro also each had two-run doubles in the eighth.
"I'm real proud of the guys getting right after it," Mauer said. "We put New York behind us. We grinded it out, and that's been a strength of ours all year, just turning the page to the next game at hand. Guys had a lot of good at-bats, and it was great to see."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Buxton snaps streak, extends another: After going 0-for-10 in Minnesota's three-game sweep by the Yankees, Buxton was moved down to seventh in the order and flied out to right in his first at-bat. But Buxton came through in a big way to snap his 0-for-11 funk with a two-run single with two outs in the fourth to give the Twins a lead. Buxton then stole second base, giving him 22 straight stolen bases without getting caught, tying the club record set by Chuck Knoblauch (1994) and Matt Lawton (1999-2000).
"I thought Byron's two-out knock was the biggest hit of the night to tell you the truth," Molitor said. "We spread it out over the game."
No. 400 for Mauer: Mauer's 400th double of his career proved to be an important one, as he broke the game open with a two-run double off reliever Victor Alcantara with two outs in the sixth. Polanco followed with an RBI single to score Mauer, who is second on Minnesota's all-time doubles list behind Kirby Puckett (414). The run was also his the 950th of his career, which ties him with Rod Carew for the third-most in Twins history.
"He's kind of a throwback, Tony Gwynn style," Ausmus said. "Has a little more power than Tony, but similar style of hitter." More >
"You start talking about Rod Carew, you're doing something right. It's neat for me to hear some of the names I'm tying or approaching or whatever. It's very humbling. I grew up in Minnesota rooting on the Twins, and now I'm getting up there in the ranks with some of my favorite players and people. It's exciting, humbling and fun all at the same time." -- Mauer, on tying Carew
"We're going to grind it out. 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 to beat them on a nightly basis." -- Ausmus, on the Tigers' struggles
GRANITE MAKES FOUR-STAR CATCH
Twins left fielder Zack Granite, who replaced Rosario in the eighth inning, made an impressive diving catch to rob John Hicks of a hit. Granite had to cover 62 feet in 3.9 seconds, giving it a catch probability of 44 percent, per Statcast™. He was credited with a four-star catch.
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson is set to start for the Twins in the second game of the series on Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT. Gibson has been impressive since late July, posting a 3.30 ERA over his last 10 starts.
Tigers: The series continues Friday with a 7:10 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. Daniel Norris (4-7, 5.38) will come in from the bullpen to make his first start since July 5. He struck out 11 Twins in their last meeting last September.
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