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DETROIT (AP) — Max Scherzer was finally willing to do a bit of scoreboard watching.
For the Detroit Tigers, a fourth straight AL Central title is within reach.
"I've said the whole time I'm not worried about what Kansas City does, and I'm focused only on what we do, but this is the first time this season, I actually want Kansas City to lose," Scherzer said. "That way we can come to the park (Friday) and win, and clinch it."
Scherzer didn't get his wish — the second-place Royals won Thursday night — but the Tigers had already reduced their magic number to two with a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Detroit needs more than just a victory to clinch the division Friday — but if the Tigers win and the Royals lose, the Central will belong to Motown again.
The Tigers, who have already wrapped up a postseason spot, lead Kansas City by two games with three to play.
Scherzer made it through six tough innings, Victor Martinez hit a two-run homer in the first and Miguel Cabrera added a solo shot in the fourth. Detroit's bullpen, so often a problem this year, breezed through the final three innings without allowing a baserunner.
"We've battled Scherzer pretty good through the course of the year," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's got great stuff and we thought it was moving everywhere tonight. We had a lot of good at-bats and made him throw a ton of pitches. He still hangs in there."
Scherzer (18-5) allowed two runs and five hits.
Minnesota's Trevor May (3-6) allowed three runs and five hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
Martinez gave Detroit an early lead with his 32nd homer of the year. Cabrera's 24th made it 3-0, but the Twins made Scherzer work. After escaping trouble in the second and fourth, the right-hander allowed a two-run double to Joe Mauer in the fifth.
Scherzer struck out nine and walked four while throwing 116 pitches.
"He had good stuff. I think he was a little erratic at times with his location. As a result, his pitch count got up," Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said. "He worked out of a couple jams and then held them to a couple runs."
Rajai Davis doubled home an insurance run for Detroit in the seventh.
Detroit's maligned bullpen held on rather easily. Joakim Soria pitched the seventh, Joba Chamberlain handled the eighth and Joe Nathan finished for his 34th save in 41 chances.
Nathan struck out two in the ninth and lowered his ERA to 4.89.
"Today was smooth. The results worked out," Nathan said. "Was it my best stuff? I don't know about that. I threw pretty good."
KEPT IN CHECK
Minnesota has given the Tigers problems of late, splitting a four-game set in late August and taking two of three from Detroit earlier this month. The Twins scored 60 runs in those seven games, but they were quiet offensively Thursday.
Mauer drove in Minnesota's only runs but also struck out twice.
Twins: Minnesota does not expect 3B Trevor Plouffe to need surgery after he broke his left forearm Wednesday, but he's seeking a second opinion just to be sure.
Tigers: Detroit RHP Anibal Sanchez was up in the bullpen briefly, but he didn't come into the game. Sanchez hasn't pitched since being activated Tuesday from the disabled list. He was on the DL with a pectoral strain.
Ausmus says he'd like to get Sanchez in a game soon, but it's hard to find a good spot for what would be his first appearance since Aug. 8.
"I think he does need to get in there," Ausmus said. "We were looking for opportunities the last two days. I'm a little hesitant to throw him, first inning out of the pen, into the fire of a one-run game in the seventh, but we do have to get him in there."
The Tigers send Rick Porcello (15-12) to the mound Friday against Minnesota's Anthony Swarzak (3-2) on a night Detroit hopes will turn celebratory. The Tigers have not clinched a division title at home since 1987.