MINNEAPOLIS — Three losses away from a fourth straight season of at least 90, the Minnesota Twins are still playing meaningful mid-September baseball.
On Monday night, they rallied from a six-run deficit to tie the game in the eighth inning, but Casey Fien gave up back-to-back home runs to Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera in the ninth in an 8-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers are 1 1-2 games ahead of Kansas City in their quest for a fourth straight division title.
Of Minnesota's final 12 games, six are with Detroit and three are against Cleveland, which is six games back of the second wild card position.
"These guys got a chance to be spoilers, so you know they're not going to give up. That's the Twins way," said Hunter, who patrolled center field in Minnesota for the better part of nine seasons.
Hunter hit the first pitch of the ninth from Fien (5-6) into the bullpen behind left-center field.
Cabrera then crushed one to the same spot two pitches later. It was the eighth time this season the Tigers hit consecutive homers.
Kyle Ryan (2-0) earned the victory by recording the last out of the eighth, and Joakim Soria converted his first save opportunity since being acquired by the Tigers, despite allowing a leadoff double to Kurt Suzuki.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was proud of the way his team rallied, showing they have no plans to end the season quietly.
"That's what I expect out of them," he said. "These guys have been playing hard and getting after it pretty doggone good. ... They understand what the Tigers are shooting for, and they're getting a taste of this stuff, which is a lot of fun to see."
Joe Mauer tied his season high with four RBI, the last two coming in the eighth when he sliced a two-run single to left field to tie it 6-6.
In his 11th season, the Minnesota native has experienced the highs and lows in a Twins uniform and knows the importance of finishing the season strong.
"This time of year you can really find out a lot about guys digging down and going out there every day and getting after it," he said. "There's still a lot of games left to make a statement."
Minnesota looked anything but strong early as Detroit starter Max Scherzer breezed through 13 batters, surrendering just one single, but Oswaldo Arcia hit a towering home run in the fifth inning to get the Twins going.
Mauer smacked a two-run single up the middle that zoomed past Scherzer in the sixth. Trevor Plouffe added a sacrifice fly to cut the lead to 6-4.
Last year's AL Cy Young Award winner stopped the rally there, retiring Arcia on a called third strike.
"It's never easy to get a spot start," Swarzak said. "I didn't get it done."
The paid attendance of 19,700 was the smallest since Target Field opened in 2010.
ARCIA BLASTS ANOTHER
Arcia's home run was his 18th of the season and 10th in 29 games since Aug. 12. Arcia missed 33 games with a right wrist strain, yet trails Brian Dozier by just two home runs for the team lead.
"He's fun to watch walk up there," Gardenhire said.
Arcia tweaked his back while striking out in the sixth inning. Gardenhire said Arcia thinks it is "a little strain," but the team will re-evaluate the injury on Tuesday.
Milone had an MRI on his stiff neck that revealed inflammation but no structural damage. General manager Terry Ryan said there is still a possibility the right-hander will pitch again this season.
Rick Porcello (15-11, 3.23 ERA) pitches Tuesday for the Tigers, looking to snap a three-start losing streak. The Tigers have scored a total of four runs over those three previous turns. For the Twins, Ricky Nolasco (5-11, 5.64 ERA) will take the mound. He is winless in his last seven starts.
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