DETROIT – It’s getting ugly here in Comerica Park. The games are blowouts, the fans are booing, and one team looks like it cannot wait for the 2014 season to end.
Here’s the weird part, though: It’s the Twins who have only one game left to play, and the Tigers who are playoff-bound. But for the second straight night, the Twins stomped Detroit with with double-digit scoring, this time running away with a 12-3 victory that enabled them to reach the 70-victory mark for the first time since 2010.
“If it was August 1,” said manager Ron Gardenhire said of the 70th win, “it’d feel great.”
The Tigers were hoping to clinch their fourth consecutive AL Central championship, but it was the Twins who did the clinching — earning their 10th victory of the season against Detroit to claim the season series for the first time since 2009. They did it the same way they have treated the Tigers all season, too: With offense. Lots and lots of offense.
Eduardo Escobar drove in six runs with four hits, including a home run, and Brian Dozier homered, too. The Twins have outscored Detroit 25-11 in the first three games of this series and have collected 119 runs off Tigers pitching this season. Most remarkable is that with three runs Sunday, the Twins can double the 61 runs they managed against Detroit last season.
“We hit some balls soft, we hit some balls hard,” Gardenhire said of the Twins’ 16-hit performance. “I don’t have much of an explanation. These guys are just feeling good at the plate.”
The Tigers enter the season’s final day one game up on the Royals, a threat to their four-peat they had hoped to eliminate by now. Instead, Sunday’s game matters, the Tigers will start David Price instead of a rookie, and they remain at risk of having to play a one-game playoff here Monday to determine whether they are the division champ (and proceed directly to the Division Series) or a wild card (and thus play in the single-elimination wild-card game).
Ricky Nolasco was their undoing Saturday, closing a bad season with his first victory since July 1. The righthander gave up two runs on five hits, including a Nick Castellanos homer, over six innings, and lowered his season ERA to 5.38. But his mark is 2.33 in three starts against the Tigers this year, more what the Twins were hoping they would get from their $49 million free agent.
“I’m not going to go into the offseason feeling good about much, but it feels good to help the team win today,” said Nolasco (6-12), who loaded the bases with nobody out in the sixth inning but escaped the jam with only one run allowed and a 6-2 lead intact. “It’s always cool to be the spoiler, but we don’t play this game to be a spoiler.”
• Lefthander Tommy Milone faced four batters in the ninth inning and retired three, his first appearance since Sept. 2. “I wasn’t hitting spots like I normally should be, the type of pitcher I am, but I felt good and got results out of it, so that’s good,” said Milone, sidelined by a tired arm and a stiff neck. “Now that I’m back, I would like to prove that I am the pitcher that they think I am. but obviously that’s going to have to wait.”
• Third baseman Trevor Plouffe will travel to Rochester on Monday to be examined at the Mayo Clinic and receive a second opinion about whether surgery will be necessary to repair his fractured left arm.
• Josmil Pinto was standing on the on-deck circle in the first inning when the food poisoning hit. “He took off right down the stairs” and into the dugout bathroom, Gardenhire said. The Twins stalled for time, but when it was clear he was too sick to play, Eric Fryer put on his gear, caught the game and hit a two-run single in the Twins’ six-run fifth inning.
• The Twins will not renew the contracts of a pair of minor league pitching coaches, the team said. Fort Myers pitching coach Gary Lucas, who has been in the organization for 15 seasons, and Ethan Wassermann, the team’s Gulf Coast League pitching coach, were fired by director of minor leagues Brad Steil.