MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Twice within a week, the Minnesota Twins have watched an opponent celebrate their entry into baseball’s postseason at their expense.
They were on the losing end when the Athletics clinched a playoff spot. But that was on the road. Wednesday night it happened in the Twins’ own backyard.
While some Twins players trudged to the home clubhouse, a handful of others sat in the dugout to watch the Detroit Tigers bound onto the infield grass at Target Field after a 1-0 win gave them a third straight AL Central title.
“It leaves a nasty feeling in you,” said Brian Dozier, after staying behind and watching the scene unfold again for the other guys. “Kind of a hungry feeling. It’s what you play for.”
The Twins’ effort in the loss was another low-light for a forgettable season. They managed just three singles in the game, none of them leaving the infield, accumulated 13 strikeouts and stranded eight runners.
“It’s not like we had a chance and lost it,” said Twins starter Kevin Correia, who was in the clubhouse when Joaquin Benoit struck out pinch-hitter Josh Willingham to end the game. “It’s not painful, it’s just something you watch. It kind of just drives you to want to experience that.”
Painful was the majority of Twins’ at-bats against Detroit starter Max Scherzer. The AL Cy Young front-runner struck out 10 batters, including seven of the first 12 he faced on his way to his third victory of the year over Minnesota.
Torii Hunter’s single followed a leadoff triple by Austin Jackson in the first inning, and that was all Scherzer (21-3) and manager Jim Leyland’s Tigers needed to start the party.
Scherzer gave up two singles in seven innings. Jose Veras and Drew Smyly teamed up for the eighth and Joaquin Benoit worked the ninth for his 24th save in 25 tries.
A few dozen Tigers fans in attendance at Target Field cheered from their seats while Miguel Cabrera and his teammates mobbed Benoit in front of the mound after he struck out Josh Willingham to end the game.
The celebration picked up even more in the visitors’ clubhouse, where the Tigers sprayed bubbly and smoked cigars.
“It’s always a good feeling,” said Prince Fielder, popping the cork on another bottle of the good stuff. “We’re going to enjoy this tonight.”
Scherzer spun one more solid start for voters to consider, except for the season-high six walks and 123 pitches. He struck out 10 and lowered his ERA to 2.90, ensuring he’ll finish the season with the most wins in the major leagues. Jordan Zimmermann, the next closest, has 19 for Washington.
Second-place Cleveland beat the Chicago White Sox, but the Tigers maintained their 4½-game edge. The Indians control the second AL wild-card spot.
Correia (9-13) did his best to give the Twins a chance, giving up seven hits and one run over seven innings to finish his first season with the Twins with a 4.18 ERA. He leads the team in wins, starts, innings and strikeouts.
“I think I had a pretty good year,” said Correia. “I went out there every five days, or whatever it ended up being, just staying healthy, giving us kind of a stabilizer in the rotation. That’s kind of what they brought me over for.”
The Twins beat the Tigers in an epic 163rd game to decide the division title in 2009. Now, the Twins are barely a shell of that team while the Tigers have taken off.
The clear favorites to win the Central again after getting swept by San Francisco in last year’s World Series appearance, the Tigers haven’t had a losing month this season. They tightened their grip on the division with a 12-game winning streak shortly after the All-Star break.
Now it’s on to the postseason, where the Tigers have had some success under Leyland but still fallen short of the ultimate goal, the team’s first World Series title since 1984. They were American League champions in 2006 and runners-up in 2011.
NOTES: Leyland said he hopes SS Jose Iglesias (left hand) will play Friday in Miami, where Porcello (13-8, 4.38 ERA) will pitch against RHP Tom Koehler (4-10, 4.45 ERA). … With the Tigers losing their DH for the weekend, Victor Martinez could catch some and give Fielder a few innings off at 1B, Leyland said. … Twins RHP Mike Pelfrey won’t pitch again this season, finishing with a 5-13 record and 5.19 ERA in 29 starts after Tommy John ligament replacement surgery on his elbow. … Twins OF Oswaldo Arcia had a precautionary MRI test on his sore right knee that showed no structural damage. They’d like him to play this weekend. … The Twins will send LHP Andrew Albers (2-4, 3.98 ERA) to the mound on Thursday night, with RHP Zach McAllister (9-9, 3.88 ERA) pitching for the Indians.
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