Scherzer had to leave his previous start after two innings with shoulder fatigue, but he was back on the mound for the first game of Sunday's doubleheader.
Was he 100 percent? No -- he couldn't get his normally high-90s fastball past 93 -- but he should have been good enough for the Tigers to win. Instead, he was let down by Detroit's defense and the Twins went on to beat Detroit 10-4.
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The Tigers began the day one-half game behind the AL Central-leading Chicago White Sox, who played later at the Los Angeles Angels.
Scherzer (16-7) held Minnesota scoreless for the first five innings, mixing the fastball he had with a high percentage of off-speed pitches.
"I knew if I could go out there and mix speeds, it would be just as effective as having velocity," he said. "I know I don't have to have velocity to be a good pitcher."
He wasn't getting any arguments from the Minnesota clubhouse.
"He's still got great stuff, even if he wasn't throwing 97," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's got the great change, a great breaking ball and everything is moving all over the place. We really had to be patient with him."
Despite the diminished velocity, Scherzer isn't worried about making his final two starts, including game 162.
"They kept me rested this week, so maybe that's why I didn't have my normal zip," he said. "Now I'll be back on the regular program, so hopefully that will get things back to normal."
The Tigers led 2-0 early, with an RBI and a run from Miguel Cabrera, but Detroit's notoriously bad defense melted down in the sixth, leading to five Minnesota runs. Ben Revere led off with a fly to left that Andy Dirks dropped just short of the wall. By the time Dirks could locate the ball, Revere was at third with what was ruled a triple.
"I thought I'd be able to stop and make the catch, but the ball kept gaining ground," Dirks said. "I threw my glove up and I hoped I'd get it in the right area. I knew it hit off my glove, and then I hit the wall and didn't know where the ball was, so he gets a triple."
Joe Mauer pulled the Twins within 2-1 with an infield single, and Josh Willingham moved him to third with a double. That brought Phil Coke into the game, and he got Justin Morneau to fly to shallow left.
Dirks, though, got a very late break and the ball dropped for a game-tying single.
Ryan Doumit walked to load the bases, and Trevor Plouffe made it 3-2 with a single on Brayan Villarreal's first pitch. The Twins then added a bizarre run when a third strike got away from Gerald Laird.
Villarreal covered the plate, but stretched for a force out instead of tagging Morneau. He only realized his mistake when home-plate umpire Tom Hallion singled safe.
"That's something I've never seen in 49 years of baseball," Jim Leyland said. "He saw the batter heading for first and thought it was a force play. He's probably not an expert on the rulebook, to be honest with you."
The inning's fifth run then scored when Pedro Florimon beat out an inning-ending double play.
In the seventh, Revere walked, stole second, took third on Laird's throwing error and scored when Dirks made a diving catch of Mauer's foul fly to left. The Twins made it 8-2 on RBI singles by Eduardo Escobar and Revere in the eighth, and Mauer's triple later in the inning got Minnesota to double figures.
"We put together three great innings in a row and got ourselves a win," Gardenhire said. "At this point in the season, that's great to see."
The Twins also got a lot of help from Scott Diamond, who held the Tigers to two runs in seven innings.
"After my last couple starts, I've worked really hard on keeping the ball down in the zone," he said between games. "Today, I was able to execute my pitches where I wanted them."
- Scherzer's loss was his first since July 30. He is 10-2 in 16 starts since June 28.
- After the first-game victory, the Twins are now 5-0 in day-night doubleheaders this season, having swept two against Kansas City earlier this season.
- The first game drew a sold-out crowd of 40,438, and the second game was expected to sell out as well.
- With the game out of hand, Leyland took out stars Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson after the eighth inning.