MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Tigers have entered the final month of the season with a sizable lead in the American League Central race -- and the confidence of a contender.
They're feeling good enough about their situation that they weren't too disappointed by a lopsided loss to the Minnesota Twins.
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"When they got to 11, I think we all were kind of like, 'Well, it's been a pretty good trip,"' manager Jim Leyland said.
The Tigers went 5-2 on the road this week, winning three out of four against the Rays and taking two of three from the Twins.
"You can't get hung up on these emotional, day-to-day rolls," Leyland said. "I mean, we got beat today. I don't have any problem with that."
He added: "Five out of seven in Florida against that pitching staff and up here? I'll take that any time. That'll put you in a pretty good position. We just have to go home and continue to play well."
Hughes has gone deep three times in two games. He drove in five runs for the first time in his career, backing Brian Duensing (9-13) and sparking the Twins to just their fourth win against the Tigers in their last 19 meetings.
Penny (9-10) didn't exude quite the same relaxed manner as his manager. The right-hander gave up eight hits, seven runs and two walks in five innings. He struck out five, but the Tigers fell to 52-52 when Justin Verlander doesn't start. They're 21-8 when their dazzling, dominant right-hander takes the mound.
"Two outs, one out, no outs, it doesn't matter to me," Penny said. "They scored the runs, and it is what it is."
Jason Kubel also homered, a two-run shot in the first inning, off Penny and drove in three runs. After scoring just nine runs in the previous seven games, the Twins finally broke out. They were without regulars Michael Cuddyer, Joe Mauer, Alexi Casilla and Denard Span, too.
Hughes, an Australian who has been back and forth between Minnesota and Triple-A Rochester four times this season, hit a two-run drive off an 0-1 changeup from Penny and it bounced off the wall behind the bullpen in right-center field in the fourth inning. That followed an RBI triple by Rene Tosoni. Then Hughes hit a three-run homer on a 1-0 sinker from David Pauley in the seventh.
Hughes said he was prepared to be aggressive.
"Penny comes after you," he said.
The Tigers hit into five double plays while missing an opportunity to stretch their division lead to the biggest of the season. They have a 6½-game lead on the Indians and began the day with a seven-game edge over the White Sox.
Duensing induced three double plays to limit the damage. He allowed seven hits, four runs and three walks in six innings, but the left-hander was just happy to win. He was 0-5 with an 8.65 ERA in his first five August starts.
"It was kind of a confidence boost to see that my sinker was actually getting groundballs for once," Duensing said.
The Twins won at home for just the third time in their last 18 games at Target Field.
Ramon Santiago had four hits and two RBI for the Tigers, and Victor Martinez had two singles and drove in a run. The Tigers are 32-19 against division opponents this season. Their next 16 games are against AL Central foes.
"The pitching's been great for us all road trip," Santiago said. "The pitching is our weapon. With the offense we have, we can score a couple of runs. I think we're going to be OK."
- Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who recently ended his presidential campaign, sat in the first row behind the Tigers' dugout and gave his wife, Mary, a firm smooch when the sixth inning "Kiss Cam" feature showed them on the big screen.
- The Tigers will send RH Max Scherzer (13-7) to the mound on Monday to start a four-game series at home against Kansas City. RH Luke Hochevar will start for the Royals.
- The Twins start a three-game series in Chicago against the White Sox on Monday, with RH Kevin Slowey (0-2) pitching against LH Mark Buehrle (10-6).
- The Tigers had utility man Don Kelly back from paternity leave, but OF Brennan Boesch (sprained thumb) and versatile backup Ryan Raburn (jammed finger) were out. Manager Jim Leyland told Raburn he wanted him to treat the injury all day so he can be back soon. He also expressed concern about Boesch's lingering absence. "He's a big key for us," Leyland said.