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DETROIT (AP) — The Minnesota Twins did what they could against Max Scherzer, forcing the star right-hander to throw 116 pitches in six innings.
"We had a lot of good at-bats and made him throw a ton of pitches. He still hangs in there," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's why he's a stud."
Scherzer pitched Detroit to a 4-2 victory over Minnesota on Thursday night. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez homered for the Tigers, who lowered their magic number to clinch the AL Central to two.
Martinez hit a two-run homer in the first and 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.
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, but the Twins couldn't overcome the homers by Martinez and Cabrera.
"Those two guys, they hit home runs a lot," May said. "The 0-2 slider to Miggy, that's supposed to be hit out. Especially against a guy like that — he doesn't miss those."
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.
"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.
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 Thursday was a different story.
Mauer drove in Minnesota's only runs but also struck out twice.
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."
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.