DETROIT – The Minnesota Twins beat Detroit's best to win a series against the Tigers.
Jim Thome homered — his third in the three-game series — and Justin Morneau hit a two-run single in the ninth inning as the Twins beat the first-place Tigers 6-5 on Wednesday night.
"It is big to win this series," said Morneau, who got his hit off Tigers closer Jose Valverde. "He's been lights out all year — 35 for 35 in save situations — so to score runs off him is big."
With the game tied at 4, Rene Tosoni led off the top of the ninth with a single off Valverde (2-4). Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Ben Revere both reached when the Tigers misplayed sacrifice bunts.
Valverde struck out Trevor Plouffe and Joe Mauer, but Morneau hit a ball up the middle to make it 6-4.
"We had the bases loaded with nobody out, and they had a chance to get out of it," Morneau said. "I just wanted to get a pitch to hit, and I got into a fastball count. I hit it pretty good and just hoped it would get past the shortstop."
The loss, combined with Cleveland's 4-1 win over Chicago, left the Tigers just two games ahead of the Indians heading into a three-game series between the teams starting Friday.
"Tomorrow's a big day to clear our heads and get ready," Detroit's Brennan Boesch said. "We know this is a big series coming up this weekend."
Joe Nathan allowed an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera in the bottom of the inning but still picked up his 11th save. He is 33 for 33 lifetime in save opportunities against Detroit.
Matt Capps (4-6) got the win after finishing the eighth inning.
"Don't forget — that's the team that won the division last year, and they are getting their horses back on the track," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "They are going to make things miserable for some teams down the stretch."
The Twins took a 1-0 lead in the second inning on Thome's 601st homer, his third in less than 48 hours.
Detroit tied the game on Delmon Young's sacrifice fly in the third, but it would have been a two-run double if not for a diving catch by Revere in center field. Revere had already robbed Young — his teammate until Monday — of another extra-base hit with an over-the-shoulder catch in the first.
"First he makes an unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch, and then he tops it with the one in right-center," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Young was only able to shake his head.
"Until this week, I loved watching him make those plays," he said with a wry smile. "I didn't even think he had a chance on the second one — I was thinking inside-the-park homer when he dove — but that's why they are trying to get him out there every day."
Detroit went ahead 2-1 in the sixth on Jhonny Peralta's 17th homer, but Brad Penny couldn't get an out in the seventh. Danny Valencia led off the inning with a double into the gap in right-center, and Tosoni followed with his third career homer.
Cabrera's RBI single made it 3-3 in the bottom of the inning, but Boesch was thrown out trying to score from first to end the inning.
"(Jason) Kubel made a great play getting the ball off the wall and hitting the cutoff man," Twins starter Carl Pavano said. "That was a real rally killer."
The teams traded eighth-inning runs, with Thome's RBI single countered by Wilson Betemit's sacrifice fly.
NOTES: Thome has as many homers at Comerica Park this week (3) as Magglio Ordonez and Brandon Inge have combined to hit there this season. ... The Twins start a four-game home series against the Yankees on Thursday, with Brian Duensing (8-11) facing New York's CC Sabathia (16-7). Kubel will miss the first game of the Yankees series to deal with a family issue. ... Detroit is off Thursday before hosting a weekend series with Cleveland. ... The Tigers announced before the game that they had sent minor-league closer Chance Ruffin to Seattle to complete a July 30 trade. The Tigers got SP Doug Fister and RP David Pauley for SP Charlie Furbush, OF Casper Wells, Ruffin and another minor leaguer. ... Two of Tosoni's three homers have come against the Tigers.