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MINNEAPOLIS -- A win, and the Twins would have been one game out of first place.
Instead, Minnesota was unable to complete the sweep of Detroit on Sunday, falling, 6-2, and dropping three games behind the Tigers in the American League Central with four scheduled games remaining between the two teams. The loss also snapped a season-high six-game win streak.
"Coming into this series, we knew we had to at least get two," Twins catcher Joe Mauer said. "A sweep would have been great. That's a good ballclub over there, and there's a reason why they're at the top of the division."
A one-game deficit certainly would have looked more manageable for Minnesota. But the Twins know they can still gain ground during their upcoming 10-game road trip, which includes a four-game series against Detroit.
"You've just seen over this last week what can happen in the course of six games," Twins first baseman Michael Cuddyer said. "We still have 13 to play. Obviously they're in the driver's seat right now, three games up. But anything can happen."
"It's really tough to sweep any team," said Scott Baker, Sunday's starter. "I think we're definitely playing better baseball. I think we're playing the baseball that we're capable of playing. We definitely should be able to put another win streak together."
Prior to Sunday's game, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire talked highly of Baker's confidence, which the skipper said had grown throughout the season. The right-hander had become the most consistent starter in the rotation, going 7-1 with a 3.25 ERA since July 12.
But a rough fifth inning Sunday gave Baker his second loss in his past three starts in addition to ending Minnesota's hot streak.
Holding a one-run lead to begin the fifth inning, Baker issued a walk to Gerald Laird and gave up a single to Ramon Santiago to start the frame. Tigers second baseman Placido Polanco then drove both runners in with a single to right two batters later.
"I felt like I made a decent pitch," Baker said. "You have to come into that guy, because he'll shoot the ball over there if you throw away. That was a big hit for him. He's a tough out. He's tough to keep off the bases a lot of times."
Polanco later came around to score on a single by Magglio Ordonez to give Detroit a 4-2 lead. Baker left after 4 2/3 innings of work, allowing four runs on eight hits. It was his shortest outing since Aug. 9, which also came against the Tigers.
"He just didn't locate in that inning, and ended up giving up some runs," Gardenhire said of the three-run fifth.
Mauer agreed that Baker had trouble hitting his spots.
"He left some balls up," Mauer said. "That lineup over there, they're going to make you pay."
Detroit tacked on two more in the eighth against reliever Francisco Liriano, including a leadoff home run by Ryan Raburn. Brandon Inge later scored on a sacrifice fly by Polanco to push Detroit's lead to 6-2.
"We didn't pitch well enough today," Gardenhire said.
Offense was tough to come by for Minnesota against Nate Robertson, although the Twins did jump on the board first with a run in the opening frame. Orlando Cabrera scored from third on a groundout by Jason Kubel to give the Twins an early 1-0 lead.
Minnesota added another run in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead when Nick Punto singled in Delmon Young from third. But those would be the only runs Robertson would give up on the day, as he went five innings and allowed just five hits.
"Robertson's got great stuff. He always has," Cuddyer said. "He didn't miss a lot over the plate too much and hit his spots. He threw well."
"Robertson kept us off balance," Gardenhire added. "Fastballs and changeups, and we just never really did a whole heck of a lot against him, either."
Mauer and Matt Tolbert were the only two Twins with multiple hits, as both went 2-for-4. Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel combined to go 0-for-11.
Span struck out in all four of his at-bats, including three times against Robertson.
"Nate just totally pitched him good today," Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said. "[Span's] kind of like their pulse. He gets on base and gets things going for Mauer and those guys. With him not on, it's a rally killer if you can't get that leadoff guy on."
And without Span getting on base, it was tough for the Twins to get anything going.
"[It was] a tough day today," Gardenhire said. "We wanted to try to get the sweep. I guess we'll have to take two out of three."