DETROIT — Detroit’s bullpen is doing everything it can to help the Tigers get into the postseason.

The relievers just aren’t getting any help from the starting rotation.

In the final three games of Detroit’s home series with the floundering Minnesota Twins, the starters lasted 9 1/3 innings, allowing 17 runs. On Thursday, Mike Pelfrey gave up four runs while only getting five outs.

“I don’t know how many innings our relievers threw in this series — maybe 20 or something,” Pelfrey said. “We can’t keep expecting those guys to pitch eight innings a night.”

The Tigers were able to salvage Wednesday night’s game, thanks to five scoreless innings from the bullpen, but lost Tuesday and Thursday to end up with a split of the four-game series.

“The bullpen is doing a great job, and keeping us in games, but we can’t get anything started,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.

By going 2-2 against a team that is on pace to lose 100 games, the Tigers hurt themselves in a crowded AL wild-card race.

“This is obviously not what we wanted,” Ausmus said. “Any time you lose four out of seven, it isn’t a good homestand.”

Hector Santiago (12-8) held Detroit to one run in 5 ? innings to continue his rebound after a post-trade slump.

“Hector had to dance out of trouble a few times, but he did a nice job,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “If he pitches like this, his spot with us next year will take care of itself.”

After moving from the Angels to the Twins at the trade deadline, Santiago lost his first four starts, posting a 10.89 ERA. He’s 2-0 in the last four with a 1.82 ERA.

“I made some adjustments when I got here, but I ended up leaving a bunch of pitches over the plate,” he said. “Now I’m back to trying to throw good pitches, not just getting strike one.”

Santiago only got one ground-ball out and three strikeouts.

“I had really good command of the fastball, so I was able to keep jamming guys up and in,” he said. “They kept popping it up, so I kept throwing it.”

Pelfrey (4-10) lost in his first major-league appearance since July 31. He started the game with a 60-pitch limit, but only lasted 36.

The Twins took the lead in the second on Max Kepler’s RBI single, and he moved to third when Miguel Cabrera missed a pick-off attempt. Eduardo Escobar singled to make it 2-0, and Eddie Rosario beat out a bunt single.

Juan Centeno bunted the runners over, and Pelfrey retired Byron Buxton. That brought up Brian Dozier with two on, two out and first base open. Despite his torrid numbers in the second half, Ausmus decided to pitch to him.

“With the bases loaded, you don’t have any room to maneuver,” he said. “If he grounds out to third, no one is asking me about it.”

Instead, Dozier lined a soft single to left to give the Twins a 4-0 lead and bring Blaine Hardy out of the bullpen.

“Our guys were going to attack Mike’s fastball,” Molitor said of Pelfrey, who spent the last three seasons with the Twins. “That helped us get those two early runs, and then Dozier came up with that huge hit to get the lead from two to four.”

The Tigers had two runners on in the third, fourth and fifth innings, but Santiago escaped all three jams without allowing a run.

James McCann finally broke the shutout with a two-out RBI double in the sixth, but J.T. Chargois replaced Santiago to get out of the inning. He walked Tyler Collins, but Andrew Romine flew out to the track in right, stranding two more runners.

Hardy kept the Tigers in the game with 3 1/3 scoreless innings of relief and Kyle Ryan added two more, but the offense couldn’t take advantage. Alex Wimmers, who came into the game with a 7.56 ERA, faced the top six in Detroit’s order in the seventh and eighth without trouble.

“Wimmers getting those six outs was huge,” Molitor said. “He’s had some tough luck in limited innings, but he’s a reliever with four pitches and he’s starting to trust his stuff.”

Byron Buxton’s RBI single made it 5-1 in the ninth, and Brandon Kintzler finished Detroit off in the bottom of the inning.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: 3B Miguel Sano flew back to Minnesota to have more tests run on his sore back. Sano left Monday’s game, and said that the problem hasn’t improved. He will miss the weekend series against the Mets, but could return next week when the Twins return home.

OLYMPIC WEEK CONCLUDES

For the fourth day in a row, the Tigers had a Rio Olympic medalist throw out the ceremonial first pitch. On Thursday, it was swimmer Connor Jaeger, who won silver in the 1,500-meter freestyle. Jaeger swam for Michigan.

UP NEXT

Twins: Travel to New York for a three-game weekend series against the Mets. Friday night, Minnesota’s Jose Berrios (2-6. 9.27) faces New York’s Bartolo Colon (13-7, 3.27).

Tigers: Head to Cleveland for a three-game series and their last chance to get back into the AL Central race. Rookie of the Year favorite Michael Fulmer (10-6, 2.76) goes up against Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber (16-9, 3.05) in the opener.