J-Up's HR spurs Tigers to G1 win over Twins

J-Up's HR spurs Tigers to G1 win over Twins

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Upton hit a go-ahead homer in the seventh inning on Thursday afternoon at Target Field before Victor Martinez's pinch-hit three-run homer in the ninth sent the Tigers on their way to an 9-2 win over the Twins to begin a day-night doubleheader.

The win moved Detroit within a half-game of Baltimore for the second American League Wild Card spot. A win in the nightcap and an Orioles loss Thursday evening would put the Tigers into the spot by themselves.

Pat Dean and Anibal Sanchez, both thrust into spot starts when storms washed out Wednesday's game and its scheduled starters in the third inning, put on an unlikely pitching duel with five innings of one-run ball apiece, trading zeros after both teams scored first-inning runs.

Detroit rallied off Alex Wimmers (1-3) for the second time in 10 days. This time, it came off one swing from Upton, who connected on his 26th home run of the season and his 13th since Aug. 21. Martinez, making his first appearance since suffering a bruised right knee on a hit by pitch Sunday in Cleveland, delivered his third pinch-hit home run of the season, punctuating a six-run ninth that blew the game open.

Alex Wilson (4-0) earned the victory with 1 2/3 innings in relief of Sanchez. Shane Greene stranded the bases loaded in the seventh by retiring Robbie Grossman before striking out Miguel Sano to end the eighth with the potential tying run on third.

Upton unleashes another clutch homer: Not only have Upton's home runs been numerous of late, they've been timely. Five of his 13 home runs in the past 32 days have either tied the game or put Detroit in front in the sixth inning or later. His drive off Wimmers had little doubt, landing in the back of the bullpen just to the left of the 411-foot mark in left-center field. Statcast™ projected the drive at 453 feet.

Statcast: Upton's 453-foot homer

Dozier sets AL record: In the first inning, Brian Dozier hit his 42nd homer of the year and his 40th while playing second base to set an American League record. Dozier became only the fourth player in Major League history to reach 40 homers while playing second base, joining Rogers Hornsby (42), Davey Johnson (42) and Ryne Sandberg (40). Johnson holds the record for homers for a player who primarily played second base with 43. It also extended Dozier's hit streak to 24 games, which is tied for the third-longest hit streak in Twins history.

Dozier's 42nd homer of the year

Off bench, into seats: Victor Martinez began his season with pinch-hit home runs in back-to-back games of the opening series at Miami. Though his balky right knee kept him out of the starting lineup for Thursday's matinee, he was able to pinch-hit. He made his trip around the bases easy on himself with a drive to right, becoming the first Tiger with three pinch-hit homers in a season since Larry Herndon in 1986.

V. Martinez's three-run homer

Polanco doubles up: The Twins cut it to a one-run game with an RBI double from Jorge Polanco with one out in the eighth inning, but Polanco was stranded at second. Polanco also doubled in the first after Dozier's leadoff homer, but he couldn't score. The Twins struggled with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-5 in those situations to leave five men on base.

Polanco's double cuts deficit

With his homer in the first, Dozier reached 100 runs scored for a third straight season, becoming only the second Twins player to accomplish the feat, joining Chuck Knoblauch (1995-97).

The Tigers avoided facing Kennys Vargas with a runner in scoring position in the opening inning when they challenged Max Kepler's stolen base. After a one-minute, six-second review, the call was reversed, earning catcher James McCann his 25th caught basestealer in 55 attempts. He added a 26th two innings later when he threw out Byron Buxton at second.

Tigers turn two after review

Tigers: Justin Verlander (14-8, 3.22 ERA) takes the ball in the nightcap of this doubleheader at 8:10 p.m. ET looking for his first win since Aug. 26. He has three no-decisions and a loss in his past four starts despite just seven runs and 34 strikeouts over 26 innings in that stretch.

Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana (7-10, 3.38 ERA) starts for the Twins in the second game of the doubleheader at 7:10 CT. Santana has been Minnesota's ace this season and has a 2.31 ERA over his past 16 starts.

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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Read his blog, Bollinger Beat, follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.