Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier, right, scores on a Joe Mauer, left, single off Detroit Tigers pitcher Buck Farmer. ASSOCIATED PRESS
MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Verlander labored into the sixth inning, Nick Castellanos had two hits and two RBIs, and the Detroit Tigers salvaged a doubleheader split by beating the Minnesota Twins 8-6 Saturday night.
Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez each had three of Detroit's 17 hits, and Joe Nathan notched his 27th save in 32 attempts. Verlander (11-11) improved to 5-0 in seven career starts at Target Field.
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Still, with their 12-4 loss in the afternoon, the Tigers dropped a season-worst three games behind first-place Kansas City in the AL Central. They also fell a game behind Seattle for the second wild-card spot.
In the opener, Twins rookie Kennys Vargas drove in five runs and starter Yohan Pino (2-5) struck out six in five innings.
Nathan gave up an RBI double to Brian Dozier but recovered to get the last two outs against his former team.
Verlander has been uncharacteristically hittable this season, and a sore right shoulder kept the 2011 winner of the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards out of the last turn through the rotation.
After the Tigers gave up a total of 32 runs and 34 hits while throwing a whopping 398 pitches in losing the first two games of the series, they badly needed the old Verlander to come through in this one.
He wasn't sharp, and most of the contact made by the Twins against him was. But the lineup sprang to life against Minnesota rookie Trevor May (0-3), who didn't hold his 4-2 lead, and kept on hitting against the bullpen.
Joe Mauer, who drove in three runs in the first game, hit an RBI double in the third inning before a two-run double by Trevor Plouffe. Verlander escaped trouble in the fourth, though, and walked stone-faced off the field when Blaine Hardy replaced him.
Hardy got the last out of the sixth inning with runners at first and second.
May completed five innings for the first time in four career starts, but after a strikeout to start the sixth the right-hander's first major league victory quickly sailed out of reach. Eugenio Suarez's broken-bat, two-run single pushed the Tigers in front 5-4, and Jared Burton was summoned from the bullpen.
Castellanos hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run single in the seventh off Burton to add to the lead.
Vargas finished the day with six RBIs and has driven in 23 runs in his first 22 major league games, all this month.
The Twins scored seven runs in the opener off Tigers starter Buck Farmer (0-1), who managed only four outs. He gave up six runs in the second, while the Twins batted around for the third time in a span of nine innings.
The Tigers scored three unearned runs off Pino in the fifth after a bad throw by Dozier at second base allowed Castellanos to reach second. Ian Kinsler, Ezequiel Carrera and Miguel Cabrera all singled to pull the Tigers to 9-4, but the rest of their production didn't come until the evening.
Tigers: Manager Brad Ausmus said RHPs Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria were scheduled to throw in the bullpen between games. Sanchez has been on the disabled list since Aug. 9 with a strained right pectoral muscle. Soria has been out since Aug. 10 with a strained left oblique.
Twins: Mauer is still receiving daily treatment for the strained muscle on his right side that kept him out for 34 games. He stretched his streak of reaching base, the longest active in the majors, to 25 games. "I feel good. I'm seeing the ball well," said Mauer, who's hitting .327 with 11 RBIs in 13 games since coming off the DL.
The Tigers will try to split the series by sending reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (14-4, 3.07 ERA) to the mound Sunday afternoon. Kyle Gibson (11-9, 4.13) pitches for the Twins.