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Twins fall to Tigers, lose ground in Wild Card race

MINNEAPOLIS -- Alfredo Simon threw 6 1/3 solid innings and Victor Martinez went 3-for-4 with two RBIs to help lead the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Twins on Tuesday night at Target Field.

The Tigers, though, saw their streak of four consecutive American League Central titles come to an end with the Royals' win over the Indians. The Twins also fell to 1 1/2 games back in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot with the loss and a Rangers win over the Astros.

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MINNEAPOLIS -- Alfredo Simon threw 6 1/3 solid innings and Victor Martinez went 3-for-4 with two RBIs to help lead the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Twins on Tuesday night at Target Field.

The Tigers, though, saw their streak of four consecutive American League Central titles come to an end with the Royals' win over the Indians. The Twins also fell to 1 1/2 games back in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot with the loss and a Rangers win over the Astros.

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Simon allowed three runs on eight hits and a walk, but two of those runs came after he left the game in the seventh inning. He left after striking out Brian Dozier with runners at the corners in the seventh, and was charged with two runs on a bases-loaded single from rookie Miguel Sano off reliever Drew VerHagen. But VerHagen got out of the jam by getting Trevor Plouffe to ground into a double play.

Video: DET@MIN: VerHagen gets Plouffe to ground into DP

Simon outlasted Twins right-hander Phil Hughes, who was activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game after missing more than a month with lower back stiffness. Hughes lasted three innings, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk, while throwing 65 pitches in his first outing since Aug. 9.

After the Tigers added an insurance run in the ninth, the Twins made it a one-run game with a two-out RBI double from Joe Mauer. But Detroit closer Bruce Rondon was able to strike out Sano to end the game on three straight sliders after starting off his appearance with 17 straight fastballs.

Video: DET@MIN: Mauer lines RBI double to left-center in 9th

"It's tough to come up with a hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to tie a game, especially with a guy throwing that hard," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "He got beat. But he got a big hit the at-bat before and is still doing fine."

Said catcher James McCann: "We were going to make him hit Bruce's best pitch, and Bruce went after him with three very good sliders. … Especially the last two, those are probably the best two sliders I've seen Bruce throw, counting the Minor Leagues."

Video: DET@MIN: Rondon strikes out Sano to earn the save

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
V-Mart's ribeye fasting ends: Victor Martinez entered Tuesday with no RBIs since Aug. 20, mired in an 0-for-21 slump with runners in scoring position. He ended the drought with two clutch singles Tuesday. One was a slow ground ball up the middle, just out of Dozier's reach, with two outs in the opening inning to score Ian Kinsler. The other was a sixth-inning line drive to right field scoring J.D. Martinez with an insurance run. Victor Martinez's three-hit game was his first since July 6.

Video: DET@MIN: V-Mart records his second RBI single

"He swung the bat well," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He looked good in BP actually, noticeably different, and carried it into the game."

Hughes shows rust: The Twins opted to skip a rehab start for Hughes after he threw in a simulated game on Wednesday, and he wasn't able to pitch deep into the game with a limited pitch count. He was hurt by an 11-pitch at-bat from J.D. Martinez in the third that ended with a called third strike. It was tied for the shortest outing of his season, matching his last start before hitting the DL. More >

Video: DET@MIN: Hughes K's his first batter back from the DL

Romine pulls off safety squeeze: A couple weeks after not pulling off the squeeze bunt, Andrew Romine got another chance in the ninth inning with a one-run lead and Tyler Collins on third. This time, he not only connected, he laid a well-placed bunt down the first-base line, allowing Collins to charge home with an add-on run that eventually became the difference in the game.

Video: DET@MIN: Romine brings home Collins with sac bunt

"Thank god," Romine said. "If I missed another one, I might have lost my mind."

Twins' rally falls short: Minnesota was quiet offensively against Simon, scoring early on an RBI single from Kurt Suzuki in the second before finally putting together a rally in the seventh. Byron Buxton sparked it with a leadoff double to left before Aaron Hicks reached on an infield single. Simon was able to strike out Dozier, but was removed for lefty Blaine Hardy to face Mauer. Mauer drew a walk to set up a two-run single from Sano off VerHagen. But Plouffe ended the inning with his Major League-leading 27th double play of the year.

QUOTABLE
"They probably thought I had to go pee." -- Ausmus, on the Twins watching him run through the Tigers' dugout to signal to third-base coach Dave Clark to have Collins on watch for Romine's bunt

"I felt physically fine afterward but at this point in the season it's about wins. It's just disappointing to get off to that kind of start. I could've helped swing the momentum but put us in a hole early." -- Hughes

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Eddie Rosario hit his 12th triple of the season in the second inning and is now tied with Tampa Bay's Kevin Kiermaier for the most triples in the Majors this year. It's also the most triples by a Twins player since Cristian Guzman had 14 in 2003.

Video: DET@MIN: Rosario ropes triple into right-center field

WHAT'S NEXT
Tigers: Daniel Norris returns from the disabled list for Wednesday's series finale to make his first start since Aug. 19, having missed nearly four weeks with an oblique strain. He's expected to throw 45-50 pitches before giving way to Detroit's bullpen. Game time is 8:10 p.m. ET.

Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana starts in the series finale on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. CT. Santana has pitched well recently with a 1.23 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 22 innings over his last three starts.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Phil Hughes, Victor Martinez, Miguel Sano, Alfredo Simon, Kurt Suzuki