– Joe Mauer has been on Twins teams that have chased down division leaders, and he’s been on a few teams that have been chased. He’s played in two Game 163s, losing one in 2008 and then winning one in 2009.

“I’ve seen a lot,” he said. “Especially the last few weeks in September.”

He knows that if the Twins keep winning, they won’t have to worry about who’s chasing them. While it’s human nature to scoreboard watch and have the Angels-Indians game on in the clubhouse — which the Twins did Thursday — the Twins know they control their playoff destiny.

And Mauer was in the middle of the Twins’ 12-1 rout of the Tigers on Thursday at Comerica Park, their first step to recovery after being swept by the Yankees in three games earlier in the week. Coupled with the Angels’ loss to the Indians — Cleveland has won 11 straight against Los Angeles — the Twins’ lead for the last wild card spot is 2½ games with nine to play.



They are in the driver’s seat — and don’t have to check the mirror if they get on a roll.

“We talked the other day,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “We just have to try to win games. What they do is obviously going to be a factor. One of those teams behind us and the Angels can win nine out of 10 [games] too. You just don’t know.

“We’ve got to try to win today.”

Team W L Pct GB Home Road Last 10 Streak
Minnesota 79 74 .516    - 39-39 40-35  5-5 W 1

LA Angels 76 76 .500   2.5 41-37 35-39  4-6 L 4
Texas 76 76 .500   2.5 39-35 37-41  5-5 W 4
Kansas City 75 77 .493   3.5 39-36 36-41  4-6 W 2


Mauer was 3-for-4 with two RBI in the game. His two-run double in the sixth was the 400th of his career. He also scored two runs, tying Rod Carew for third on the Twins’ all-time list.

“You start talking about Rod Carew, you’re doing something right,” said Mauer, who also is 19 hits shy of 2,000 for his career. “It’s pretty neat for me to hear some of these names I’m approaching or tying. It’s very humbling.”

More importantly, he saw the Twins respond after a tough series in the Bronx.

Detroit took a 1-0 lead in the third, but the Twins scored three in the fourth, broke the game open in the fifth and then continued to pour it on against a Tigers team that is sinking toward the bottom of the AL Central division. Tigers righthander Jordan Zimmermann (8-13)lasted just four innings, giving up three runs.

Jorge Polanco was 3-for-4 with an RBI. Byron Buxton stole his 22nd consecutive base, tying him with Chuck Knoblauch (1994) and Matt Lawton (1999-2000) for the club record. The Twins walked 10 times, a season high for a nine-inning game.

Nine of the Twins’ 12 runs were scored with two outs, and they were 8-for-18 with runners in scoring position.

Twins lefthander Adalberto Mejia lasted 4⅔ innings, giving up one run on a Jeimer Candelario RBI single in the third. He was denied a chance at his fifth win for a good reason. He gave up a two-out single to Candelario, bringing the dangerous Miguel Cabrera to the plate.

This is not the time to worry about pitchers qualifying for wins. Molitor went to Dillon Gee, who gave up a single to Cabrera — a victory for him? — before getting Nick Castellanos to fly out to end the inning. Gee (3-2) pitched a scoreless sixth before leaving the game.

It’s all up to the Twins as the season winds down. And they took a step toward the postseason as they shook off a tough series in New York.

“I’m real proud of the guys getting after it,” Mauer said, “and putting New York behind us.”