Brian Dozier was the hero, hitting a game-tying solo homer in the ninth inning and scoring the winning run on Josmil Pinto's walk-off single in the 11th, leading the Twins to a 4-3 win over the Tigers.
With Minnesota's win, the magic number for Detroit to make the postseason remains one, and its magic number to win the AL Central is two.
"We obviously had a bad road series against a really good A's team, so facing the Tigers and their three good arms this series, to get a win to start off the last stretch of the season was pretty good," Dozier said. "We need to finish strong. No doubt."
After the Twins rallied for two runs in the eighth, Dozier connected on a solo blast to lead off the ninth against closer Joaquin Benoit to tie the score. Dozier also sparked the 11th-inning rally, as he singled to open the inning and advanced on a wild pitch to set up Pinto's game-winning hit to right field off reliever Luke Putkonen.
"It's very exciting," Pinto said. "I tried to put a good swing on it. I think I hit the ball well, and it was able to bring the run home."
Pinto earned his first career walk-off hit when Torii Hunter's throw from right field was offline and over the head of catcher Brayan Pena.
"It's a disappointing loss," Hunter said. "Whenever you lose, it's a disappointment. But we're going to sit back, swallow this pill and come back tomorrow ready to play, try to get that win tomorrow."
The win came on a night when Mike Pelfrey, who'd entered the game with a 10.13 ERA in three September starts, was able to right the ship despite battling the flu. He went six innings, allowing one run on six hits and three walks, with five strikeouts.
It will go down as his final start of the season, as he was told by pitching coach Rick Anderson that the club wants him to end the year on a high note. He posted a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts in his first year back from Tommy John surgery.
"It was good to finish on a positive note," said Pelfrey, who has expressed an interest in returning to the Twins next year. "But I'm not going to sugarcoat it and say I had a good year. It didn't work out the way I wanted, for me or the team. April and May were pretty bad, the middle part was better, but then September was bad. But this outing is by far and away the best one I made this month, so it's a positive I can take into the offseason."
The Tigers scored that one run off Pelfrey in the fifth inning, when Hunter doubled home Ramon Santiago after back-to-back singles by Santiago and Austin Jackson.
Detroit added two insurance runs in the seventh off reliever Casey Fien. Hunter laced a one-out double and scored on a single up the middle by Miguel Cabrera, who later scored on an RBI single by Victor Martinez.
Pelfrey was outdueled by Verlander, who had his good stuff working but was stuck with a no-decision. The right-hander threw six scoreless innings, scattering six hits and three walks while striking out 12.
Verlander struck out 10 through just 3 2/3 innings, including six in a row, but it ran up his pitch count; he needed 107 to get through his six innings. The Twins threatened a few times against him but he pitched out of several jams, and Minnesota went 0-for-9 against him with runners in scoring position.
"He was unbelievable," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "I thought he was going to break records the way the game started out. With eight strikeouts in just three innings, I just thought, 'Oh, Chrysler.'"
The Twins finally came through with a run in the eighth on an RBI double by Eduardo Escobar with one out off reliever Jose Veras. Pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit then laced an RBI double of his own -- the first hit with a runner in scoring position for Minnesota on the night -- but the Twins again could not cash in, as Alex Presley grounded weakly to first and Chris Herrmann flied out to right field on a nice running catch by Hunter.
Closer Glen Perkins threw two scoreless innings before handing it over to Anthony Swarzak, who tossed a perfect 11th inning to pick up the win. It also gave Gardenhire his 998th career win with the Twins and snapped the team's four-game losing streak.
"We needed a win," Gardenhire said. "The boys stayed after it. It was exciting to see them out there happy and shaking hands."