DETROIT -- Kyle Gibson continued his impressive run by throwing seven strong innings, Byron Buxton went 3-for-4 and Max Kepler and Brian Dozier both homered to lift the Twins to a 7-3 win over the Tigers on Friday night at Comerica Park.
It was the second straight win for the Twins, who moved 3 1/2 games ahead of the Angels and three ahead of the Rangers for the second AL Wild Card spot, pending their results against the A's. Minnesota's magic number to clinch its first postseason berth since 2010 is seven with eight games remaining.
"I think the guys played a fairly loose game," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We know we're in for a fight and these guys have played us tough the last few years, and probably dominated us in some regards. There's a lot on the line and we have to find a way to keep playing good baseball."
Tigers lefty Daniel Norris made a spot start, lasting 4 2/3 innings, allowing five runs on seven hits and a walk. He cruised early, but surrendered a solo homer to Kepler in the third, a two-run double to Buxton and an RBI single to Kepler in the fourth and an RBI double to Robbie Grossman in the sixth.
"He was all right today," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Norris, who made his first start since July 5. "He did some good things, threw some strikes. It was a step in the right direction."
The offense backed Gibson, who went seven frames, giving up three runs on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts. He gave up solo homers to Nicholas Castellanos in the second and Ian Kinsler in the sixth.
Kinsler also had a bloop RBI single in the third. Gibson improved to 7-2 with a 3.36 ERA over his last 11 starts dating back to late July.
"These two games were big for us and the next two are as well," Gibson said. "Coming off a rough series in New York, we definitely wanted to get one or two there and getting zero hurt a little bit. But these games were big to get the ship going in the right direction and hopefully we can keep it going."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kepler crushes one: Kepler has struggled against lefties this year, causing manager Paul Molitor to mostly sit him against southpaws down the stretch. But Kepler made his second straight start against a left-hander, and homered for the second consecutive time. Kepler homered off CC Sabathia on Tuesday -- his first homer off a lefty all season -- before connecting on a solo blast off Norris in the third. It was crushed, as it left the bat at 105 mph and went a Statcast™-projected 414 feet. it was the farthest homer he's hit off a lefty in his career.
"I'm getting good pitches to hit," Kepler said. "The weeks before I was wanting to get hits here and there and was getting desperate. I wasn't patient in my at-bats. It's about putting a simple swing on it and not trying to do too much."
Buxton comes up big: Buxton gave the Twins the lead with his two-run double in the fourth that hit off third baseman Jeimer Candelario's glove and went down the left-field line, allowing both Jorge Polanco and Eddie Rosario to score. Buxton scored on a two-out single from Kepler to give Minnesota a two-run lead.
"I thought we got a little bit lucky there," Molitor said. "It looked like it was a tick misjudged. I thought it was going to be caught off the bat. But it hugged the line and we were able to score a couple runs."
"I told GM Al Avila I want to finish what we started. I'm not the type that's a quitter." -- Ausmus, on why he wanted to manage through the season after he was told he won't be back next year.
Tigers left fielder Mikie Mahtook left the game in the fourth inning after aggravating a left groin strain, which had sidelined him for a week earlier this month. He aggravated the injury playing a carom off the wall in the left-field corner on Buxton's two-run double. He'll undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury. Tyler Collins replaced him in left field.
"Basically just re-aggravated what I've been dealing with for a little while," Mahtook said. "I tried to fight through it today. We'll come in tomorrow and re-evaluate it."
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana (15-7, 3.34 ERA) will start for the Twins in the third game of the series on Saturday at 5:10 p.m. CT. Santana has a 3.29 ERA over his last 10 starts, and gave up two runs over 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees last time out.
Tigers:Matthew Boyd (6-10, 5.33) takes the mound for Saturday's 6:10 p.m. ET start in his first outing since taking a no-hit bid to the final out last Sunday. He's 5-1 with a 3.83 ERA for his career against Minnesota, including 2-0 in four meetings this season.