"That's the most important thing in baseball -- it's your starters going deep into the game and giving your offense a chance to figure out a way to score a run," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's what good teams do. Their starters give them chances, and that's something we really struggled with all year."
But with the electricity provided by a crowd of 39,839 in Motown, the Twins' pitching rallied along with their hitting. It wasn't the 10-run afternoon outburst, but they came through in the clutch.
In the 10th inning against Tigers closer Jose Valverde, they manufactured the go-ahead run. Outfielder Denard Span pinch-hit for Pedro Florimon and started it with a leadoff single. After advancing to second on a groundout, Jamey Carroll, the unsuspecting hero, knocked in the run on a line drive to center field.
"A big hit there by Jamey," Gardenhire said. "Jamey comes up off a heck of a closer there and got a big hit for us. A nice night. Two ballgames, a long day, but winning a couple here was huge."
Carroll's hit propelled the Twins to their second straight series win and left them 6-0 in doubleheaders this season. It also gave Jared Burton his well-deserved second victory of the 2012 campaign.
On a chilly 56-degree night in Detroit, Burton came out of the bullpen in the bottom of the ninth inning in a tied game and was tasked with facing Cabrera, the American League leader in all three Triple Crown categories.
The fans were on their feet with the chants of "M-V-P" echoing through the ballpark. It remained that way for four pitches, when a 95-mph fastball forced Cabrera to pop up to right field and finish 1-for-4 on the night, silencing the crowd.
"Any time you're pitching in the ninth inning, you're going to be pumped up. ... That just added a little fuel to the fire, the 'M-V-P' chant," Burton said. "Obviously, he's one of the best hitters in the game. It was fun going through the meat of that order."
Burton needed only 10 pitches to retire the Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Delmon Young.
"Tonight, the ball came out of his hand as good as we've seen it in a long, long time," Gardenhire said.
The skipper felt similarly about Walters, who had been 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three September starts prior to Sunday. He still hasn't notched a win since May 22, but he pitched well enough to earn one.
The Tigers scored one first-inning run when Cabrera hit a fastball at his knees to deep right-center field, plating Austin Jackson. After that, a runner didn't reach second base until the sixth inning.
"I felt like it came out a lot better tonight than it has," Walters said. "I guess it's just kind of getting back into the swing of things. Obviously, I wish it came a little quicker than it has."
The Twins' staff held Detroit to five runs in 19 innings Sunday. Two of those runs came when the Twins already owned an eight-run lead in the afternoon game.
For one, Tigers manager Jim Leyland wasn't happy, especially given his ballclub could've taken a share of first place in the American League Central with the White Sox falling to the Angels.
"There's not really much to explain here tonight," Leyland said. "I'm just telling you it's disappointing that we didn't score more runs today. In two ballgames today, I felt that we would certainly score more runs than we did, and we didn't."
For Minnesota, the three-game series in Detroit is as close as the club will get to a playoff atmosphere this season. But even though the Twins won't be in postseason, they enjoyed a taste of it.
"To come into a playoff atmosphere and take two from these guys is pretty big for us. It's a lot of fun," Burton said. "All you can ask for is playing games like that in September, whether we're spoiling or whether we're vying for a spot in the playoffs. It's still fun. We're still hungry."
And they'll need to stay hungry, because next up is the Yankees, and that three-game set at Target Field is followed by another matchup with the Tigers.