MINNEAPOLIS -- For a few moments, it looked like the Tigers might clinch the American League Central on Tuesday night.
Instead, the Tigers had to settle for clinching a tie for first place -- what in hockey would be called a hard-earned tie. They scored all their runs on three fourth-inning home runs, and then the bullpen backed Doug Fister by slamming shut the door that got jammed Monday night.
The Tigers won, 4-2, to reduce their magic number to one.
To clinch the Central on Tuesday, the Tigers needed to win while the Indians lost. With the Tigers up three runs in the seventh, the Indians were one out away from losing to the visiting White Sox. Then Jason Giambi hit a two-run homer for the walk-off win -- the Indians' 13th straight victory over Chicago.
It's as if the tremors of Giambi's homer were felt at Target Field. Immediately after he hit it, the Twins began to storm that three-run lead Fister had guarded since the fourth.
Ryan Doumit led off the bottom of the seventh with a long homer to rightfield, ending Fister's streak of 11 straight hitters retired. After two singles around a walk, he left for Drew Smyly as the top of the order came up.
In a left-vs.-left matchup, Smyly struck out Alex Presley looking on a 3-2 pitch.
In came Al Alburquerque to face Brian Dozier, who wrecked the Tigers on Monday.
Dozier hit a grounder to shortstop Ramon Santiago, who bounced his throw to first. Prince Fielder picked the hop, and the Tigers were out of the inning with a two-run lead.
For the eighth inning, manager Jim Leyland called on rookie Bruce Rondon instead of veteran Jose Veras, who gave up two eighth-inning runs as Minnesota launched its comeback win the night before.
Rondon, who'd been out three weeks with elbow trouble, turned in perhaps his most impressive performance yet.
He overwhelmed the middle of the order. He struck out the Nos. 3-4-5 hitters, twice getting a swing on a pitch that bounced in the batter's box on the other side of the plate.
Joaquin Benoit pitched the ninth, one night after Dozier's homer cost him his first blown save of the season. He gave up a one-out double off the wall to Chris Parmelee, then fanned ex-Tiger Clete Thomas (three-pitch at-bat) and troublesome Eduardo Escobar (seven-pitch at-bat) to end it.
In the midst of his pregame news conference Tuesday, Leyland stopped and said, "We've got to score runs.
That's as simple as it is. We need to get on the board with some runs."
The Tigers specifically needed home runs.
They began the night averaging one homer for every 57 at-bats in September -- by far their worst such ratio in any month this season.
In each of the first three innings, Fister stranded a runner who reached third with one out. Thus the Tigers trailed only 1-0 entering the fourth when the power shower came against left-hander Scott Diamond.
Victor Martinez led off by pulling a line drive down the left-field line several rows over the fence. Omar Infante, the next hitter, cleared the fence in left. With two outs, Santiago singled and Austin Jackson homered to left-center. The Tigers hadn't hit three homers in a game this month until this one-inning outburst.
Fister escaped first-and-third trouble in the first by inducing a first-pitch double play from Josh Willingham.
In the second, after Parmelee's RBI single, he escaped more damage by getting Thomas to ground out and Escobar on a bolt to the track in left.
And in the third, Fister escaped first-and-third, one-out by striking out Willingham swinging with something off-speed and getting Josmil Pinto (who had the game-winning single Monday) on a comebacker.
In the next inning, the Tigers' power came back.
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