DETROIT — Byron Buxton got the cold shoulder from his teammates, but nothing was going to wipe the smile off his face.
Buxton doubled in the Minnesota Twins' six-run second inning, then hit his first career homer in the eighth in a 7-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday.
The Twins are 1 ½ games behind Houston for the final American League wild-card spot and have won two straight and five of seven.
"I'm in my first season, and I just got to help my team win a game in a pennant race," Buxton said. "I don't know what could be better than this."
At 21, Buxton is considered one of baseball's best prospects, but Paul Molitor has been going with veterans down the stretch, so Buxton hasn't had a lot of chances to play.
"I understand the situation, and I'm fine with just being here," he said. "Today, I got my chance, and I was able to hit the ball hard a couple of times."
With the Twins up by five runs and Detroit emptying its bench, Buxton's teammates sensed the moment was right.
"I guess a bunch of them were talking about, but when I went to the plate, Kurt (Suzuki) told me to go up there and get one," he said. "It was one of those perfect swings, where it doesn't even feel like you hit it. That was a nice feeling."
Buxton got the traditional first-homer treatment from his teammates, who didn't even acknowledge his return to the dugout.
"It was great to see him get that one out of the way," Molitor said. "He gets his first homer, and Miguel (Sano) gets his first triple. I'll bet you could get big odds on that combination."
For the Tigers, it was the final home game of an ugly season, and manager Brad Ausmus pulled Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez in the eighth inning.
"I was thinking back to a year ago, when we were coming up the stairs and getting ready to dump champagne on each other," said Ausmus, who only found out Friday that he was coming back next season. "That's a much better feeling, but baseball is a difficult game, and this wasn't our year."
Ervin Santana (7-4) cruised through seven innings, allowing one run on six hits and two walks, while striking out five.
Randy Wolf (0-5) was hit hard once again, giving up six runs on seven hits and a walk without getting out of the second inning.
The Twins broke open the game early with a six-run second inning. Eduardo Nunez led off with a single, and Eduardo Escobar followed with a grounder that third baseman Nick Castellanos booted.
Suzuki's RBI single got Minnesota on the board, and Buxton and Brian Dozier followed with doubles to make it 4-0. Aaron Hicks singled to make it 5-0, but Wolf got a cheer when he struck out Joe Mauer to record the first out of the inning.
He also retired Miguel Sano, but Torii Hunter's RBI single gave the Twins a six-run lead and brought Kyle Ryan out of the Tigers bullpen.
Twins: Suzuki started Sunday, despite the normal policy of catchers getting a day game off after a night game. Suzuki has been logging a lot of time behind the plate down the stretch, but Twins manager Paul Molitor said he will give him a day off Monday in Cleveland.
Tigers: Ausmus said that SS Jose Iglesias (broken finger) was available for pinch-running duties Sunday, and might accompany the team on the seven-game road trip to end the season. It's still unclear if the All-Star will be able to hit or play the field again this year.
TAKING THE LONG WAY
While the Twins dugout was happy about Buxton's homer, they were doubled over in laughter at Sano's triple. His trip around the bases did not look like the route taken by fellow rookie Eddie Rosario, who has 15 three-baggers this year.
"He slipped going around first and second, and then he almost came to a stop," Molitor said with a grin. "That was quite a path he left out there, but he made it."
Twins: The Twins hop across Lake Erie to start a four-game series with the Cleveland Indians, as both teams try to stay in the wild-card race. Phil Hughes (11-9, 4.43) will pitch Monday's opener for Minnesota, with Corey Kluber (8-15, 3.55) going for the Indians.
Tigers: Detroit will get another chance to help Houston and Los Angeles, as the Tigers fly to Texas for a three-game series with the Rangers. Justin Verlander (4-8, 3.49) starts Monday against Colby Lewis (17-8, 4.36).