MINNEAPOLIS -- Surging perhaps too late to catch Cleveland in the AL Central, the Detroit Tigers still can overtake the New York Yankees in the wild-card race.
Carlos Guillen had an RBI single and Ivan Rodriguez hit a three-run double off Johan Santana in the first inning, and Detroit held on for a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night that pulled the Tigers within 2½ games of New York.
"It's nice to finally get one," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after picking up a game on the Yankees, who rallied from a five-run deficit to beat Boston on Friday but lost 10-1 to the Red Sox on Saturday.
"We got a heartbreaker last night," Leyland said. "That's the way it is."
Joel Zumaya (2-3) pitched 1 2/3 hitless innings for the victory in relief of Yorman Bazardo, a 23-year-old right-hander who pitched effectively in his first major league start. Todd Jones got around a two-out walk in the ninth, retiring Jason Bartlett on a game-ending grounder for his 36th save this season and the 299th of his career.
Cleveland defeated Kansas City to remain 5½ games ahead of the Tigers in the Central with just 13 games to play.
"Every win for us means a lot right now," Rodriguez said. "We're not thinking New York. We're not thinking Cleveland. We're just thinking of every single game left for us during the season, and then see what happens at the end."
Santana (15-12) pitched well after a rough first, allowing four runs and six hits in eight innings with seven strikeouts. The reigning AL Cy Young winner lost for the third time in four starts and dropped to 5-6 with a 3.68 ERA since the All-Star break.
Minnesota, which lost for the ninth time in 13 games, closed within a run in the seventh on an unusual play. With runners on first and second and one out, Jason Kubel hit a bouncer back to Miner, who wheeled and tried to start a double play with a throw to second.
But Miner's throw pulled shortstop Ramon Santiago off the bag, and Kubel beat his relay throw to first base. Nick Punto raced around from second and slid home just ahead of Guillen's throw, and everyone was safe.
Leyland then brought in Zumaya, who induced Joe Mauer to ground into a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play on his first pitch.
"We needed that," Zumaya said. "I went in and knew what I had to get. Threw a sinker that stayed up, got it on his hands, and he grounded it right to (Placido) Polanco."
Mauer, the defending AL batting champ, came to the plate with runners on base in each of his four at-bats, but grounded into two double plays and went 0-for-4, dropping his average to .291.
Leyland shuffled his starting rotation this weekend in preparation for what could be an important series at Cleveland. Rookie Jair Jurrjens will start on Sunday so Kenny Rogers can pitch against the Indians on Monday.
"They're giving those (young) guys a chance to pitch and we didn't take advantage of it," Santana said.
Bazardo gave up two runs and four hits in 4 2/3 innings with two strikeouts and two walks. He threw a wild pitch that allowed Punto to score in the third.
Ryan Raburn and Polanco led off the game with back-to-back singles, Magglio Ordonez walked with one out and Guillen blooped a single down the right-field line. Rodriguez just missed a grand slam with a double high off the baggie in right field that cleared the bases.
"He's a tremendous pitcher," Rodriguez said of Santana. "When you do things like that early in the game, it's always good for the team."
- Marcus Thames nearly homered off Santana in the fourth, but Kubel hopped at the left-field fence to catch it and keep it from possibly reaching the seats.
- In the bottom of the fourth inning of every game, the Twins welcome a kid into the press box to announce the hitters over the PA system. When DH Garrett Jones came to the plate following Michael Cuddyer, the young boy said, "The designated hitter Michael Cuddyer ... I mean Garrett Jones! I'm sorry."