DETROIT - The Tigers had two chances to grab a share of first place Sunday, but the Twins spoiled both of them.
Scott Diamond pitched seven strong innings, and Joe Mauer went 3-for-4 with four RBI as the Twins defeated Detroit 10-4 in Game 1 of their doubleheader at Comerica Park.
The Twins, who have fewer quality starts than any team in the American League (59), got another one from P.J. Walters in Game 2, and Jamey Carroll lined an RBI single off Jose Valverde in the 10th inning for a 2-1 victory under the lights.
The White Sox got swept this weekend by the Angels, but Sunday's two losses dropped Detroit one game behind first-place Chicago in the AL Central.
"To come into a playoff atmosphere and take two from these guys is pretty big for us," said Twins reliever Jared Burton. "Playing games like that in September, whether we're spoiling or vying for the playoffs, it's still fun."
At 64-89, the Twins ensured themselves a better finish than last year, when they went 63-99.
"We're still hungry, and we've got another week and a half left," Burton added. "We're going to keep battling."
After a 4-2 road trip that started in Cleveland, the Twins headed home for six more games against contenders.
On Monday, they open a three-game series with the Yankees, and Detroit returns to Target Field on Friday.
Diamond and Walters are both scheduled to face the Tigers next weekend. Those two are 3-0 with a 2.78 combined ERA against Detroit this season.
"Hey, that's what you play the game for -- big games, big moments," Walters said. "Being able to come in here and try to keep Detroit out of the playoffs -- that's fun, that's why we play."
In three doubleheaders this year, the Twins are 6-0. Last year, they went 0-8 in four doubleheaders.
After getting rained out Friday and getting crushed 8-0 in Saturday's series opener, the Twins showed they can still compete with contenders.
Diamond and Walters picked a good time to end their recent struggles.
After going 10-5 with a 3.05 ERA in his first 20 starts, Diamond was 1-3 with a 7.55 ERA in his past four starts entering his Game 1 showdown with Max Scherzer.
Diamond (12-8) said pitching coach Rick Anderson worked with him on keeping pitches down in the strike zone, and the lefthander finally did that again.
"It's a good outing for me just because I've had a couple rough ones lately," Diamond said.
Back in May, Walters opened his Twins career with four quality starts -- at least six innings pitched, three or fewer earned runs allowed. But he landed on the 60-day disabled list because of right shoulder inflammation and had trouble regaining his form, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts.
He said his right shoulder cramped up in the fourth inning, prompting manager Ron Gardenhire and trainer Dave Pruemer to go to the mound. But Walters stayed in and held the Tigers to one run on five hits over six innings.
"I guess this was kind of getting back in the swing of things," Walters said. "But obviously I wish it would have come a little quicker than it has."
He was speaking for himself, but he could have meant the whole team.