MINNEAPOLIS -- Start by start, pitch by pitch, Nate Robertson is gradually waking up his tired pitching arm.
Robertson (6-6), who spent 20 days on the disabled list in June with a tired arm, struck out five and walked two to win for just the third time in 10 starts. Todd Jones worked the ninth for his 24th save in 28 chances.
"I feel good," Robertson said. "The sharpness of my pitches is the result I'm looking for. Right now I've got some good movement on some of my pitches and I want to keep it going that way."
Curtis Granderson had three hits and Magglio Ordonez capitalized on a key error by shortstop Jason Bartlett with an RBI single in the sixth to snap Minnesota's four-game winning streak.
"We made one mistake and it cost us the ball game," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We missed the play and we didn't get through the inning. It kills you. It always does."
Garza (1-1) was the hard-luck loser, allowing one unearned run and three hits in seven innings for the Twins, who started an important series on the wrong foot.
At this time last year, the Twins trailed the Tigers by 11 games in the division before storming back to win their fourth AL Central title in five seasons.
After a four-game sweep of Oakland coming out of the All-Star break, the Twins entered the game trailing Detroit by six games, but hoped to use a 10-game homestand coming out of the break to make up some ground.
"I remember last year I said they'll be right there at the end of the season and they were," said Detroit manager Jim Leyland. "They'll be right there this year. They're very good."
For two pitchers coming off long layoffs, Garza and Robertson looked sharp on Tuesday night.
Garza, who hadn't pitched in 11 days, and Robertson, who had nine days between starts, matched each other nearly pitch for pitch through five innings, each allowing two hits and Garza striking out three to Robertson's two.
Justin Morneau almost got the Twins on the board in the fourth, but Granderson caught his drive at the center-field wall to keep the game scoreless.
The Tigers finally got to Garza in the sixth, but it wasn't easy. Brandon Inge led off by reaching on an error when his grounder squirted through Bartlett's legs. He advanced to second on a wild pitch and Granderson walked.
But Placido Polanco popped up a bunt to catcher Joe Mauer and Gary Sheffield flew out to left before Ordonez squirted an 0-2 pitch between third base and shortstop for the lone run.
"He picked me up all night," Garza said. "There were balls that I didn't think he'd get up the middle that I was like, 'Yes.' He's playing hard and stuff happens. I could have given up a home run on a mistake pitch. ... Everybody is out there playing their butt off."
The Twins came right back with runners on first and second and one out in the bottom of the inning, but Robertson got Mauer looking -- a rarity -- and then Cuddyer swinging to get out of the only real jam he faced.
"You can't strike out any tougher tandem right there," Robertson said. "To get out of that situation, that was big."
Luis Castillo had two hits for the Twins, who have had a hard time figuring out Robertson. Bartlett is 0-for-16 lifetime, while Mauer (.182) and Morneau (.125) haven't fared much better.
The Twins send ace Johan Santana to the mound to face Andrew Miller on Wednesday.
"It's always nice to have Santana on the mound," Cuddyer said. "But even he can't win if we don't score any runs."
Before the game, an 8-year-old boy named Benji accompanied Gardenhire to the batter's box to hand the lineup card to the umpires. He spent the whole day with the Twins as part of the "Make-A-Wish" program. ... Bartlett's error in the sixth was his 16th this season, third most among AL shortstops. ... Polanco entered the game hitting .366 lifetime against the Twins, best among active players. He went 0-for-4.