The Twins clung to the victory despite the Tigers sending the reigning American League Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera to the plate with two outs and two runners on in the ninth inning. But closer Glen Perkins was able to strike out Cabrera with a 96-mph fastball to end the game and pick up his 29th save.
"The bullpen came in and, as it always does in Motown, it gets entertaining at the end," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But we got the outs when we had to. Everyone second-guessed me whether to walk Cabrera, but we got him out."
Pelfrey built on his last start, going 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and a walk to pick up his first victory since July 6. It marked his second straight start of pitching into the seventh inning, which is something he's only done four times in 23 outings this season.
"I think I went through a little bit of a dead-arm period, but the last two times I didn't throw a bullpen to give myself a break between starts," Pelfrey said. "The last time out I felt sharper, and this time out I felt even better than before. It's definitely feeling better the last two starts, and the results show that, too."
The right-hander outpitched Tigers starter Rick Porcello, who was chased after just 4 1/3 innings, surrendering five runs on seven hits and two walks with six strikeouts.
Morneau, whose four hits carried the offense, got the Twins on the board with a two-run blast in a three-run fourth inning. Trevor Plouffe also brought home a run that inning on a two-out double to left field that scored Wilkin Ramirez from first base.
"The home run, to be honest with you, was one of the better pitches that I threw to him all night," Porcello said of Morneau's long ball. "Obviously, there was something there that I didn't see."
The Twins added two more runs in the fifth, when they loaded the bases with one out against Porcello. The Tigers opted to bring in left-hander Phil Coke to face Morneau, but the decision backfired, as the slugger laced a two-run double on the first pitch he saw from Coke.
"With a runner on third with less and two outs, I wanted to get something I could drive to just to get one runner in from third," Morneau said. "Those are the situations where you have to keep it simple, and if you get anything more than a run, it's a bonus."
Minnesota tacked on another run in the sixth on a solo blast from Pedro Florimon off right-hander Jeremy Bonderman. It was Florimon's first homer since July 31, and just his fifth hit this month.
The Tigers didn't get on the board until the fourth, when Pelfrey gave up a solo homer to Prince Fielder on a first-pitch curveball. Fielder brought home another run in the sixth on an RBI groundout, but Pelfrey was able to retire Cabrera all three times he faced him.
Pelfrey's final inning came in the seventh, as he was able to get two quick outs but gave up an infield single to Brayan Pena and a bloop single to Jose Iglesias. The Twins opted to pull Pelfrey after 96 pitches, going to right-hander Josh Roenicke, who promptly gave up an RBI single to Austin Jackson But Roenicke was able to get Torii Hunter to pop out to Morneau in foul ground to end the inning.
Right-hander Jared Burton came in for the eighth and gave up singles to Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and both runners advanced on a passed ball with one out. But Burton was helped by a diving catch in center from Clete Thomas for the second out before striking out Omar Infante to get out of the jam.
That set the stage for the big matchup in the ninth between Perkins and Cabrera, with Gardenhire opting not to walk last year's AL Triple Crown winner to load the bases for the left-handed hitting Fielder.
"We hated the thought of Miggy coming up there, but I didn't like the thought of Prince coming up there as the [winning] run," Gardenhire said. "It still took two swings to beat us, even with Miggy up there. But if you put Fielder up there, he can do it with one swing. And believe me, he can do it. We saw it earlier in the game."