May 10, 2014

DETROIT -- Jarrod Saltalamacchia realizes the Detroit Tigers need to go on a hot streak to stay in the playoff race. The veteran catcher hopes it starts Wednesday.

The Tigers are on the outside looking in for a wild-card spot after losing five of their last seven. They were thumped 8-1 by the last-place Minnesota Twins on Tuesday in the second contest of a four-game series.

"When you're fighting and clawing to get a playoff spot and you get tied for the second wild-card spot, then you drop down two, get back up one, then drop back down to two, it's frustrating," Saltalamacchia said. "I've said from the beginning, the hottest team at the end of the season is the one that's going to be able to pull it off."

With 18 games remaining, the Tigers' margin for error continues to shrink.

"You can no longer say it's a long season," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "Every game is extremely important, especially the position we're in."

The Tigers would prefer if they didn't have to keep right-hander Anibal Sanchez (7-13, 5.69 ERA) in the rotation, but injuries have forced their hand. They need Sanchez to have one of his better outings Wednesday.

Detroit has lost nine of the last 12 games Sanchez has started, including a 7-4 decision to the Chicago White Sox last Wednesday. Sanchez allowed three runs on eight hits in that five-inning start.

Sanchez has a good track record against the Twins, posting a 5-4 record and 2.60 ERA in 15 career appearances (14 starts).

Detroit is hopeful to get left fielder Justin Upton back in the lineup. Upton left Monday's game with a mild left calf strain and did not play Tuesday.

Any offensive help would be welcome for a team that has produced only 17 runs in the last seven games.

"We're struggling offensively," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's just the way it is. You go through ups and downs. We're going to through a down spell, offensively. I think the upside, with an offense like this, it's going to come back around, and hopefully we get hot here soon, for the remainder of the season."

The Twins are dealing with a number of injuries, with first baseman Joe Mauer and designated hitter Miguel Sano the latest to join the walking wounded. Mauer has missed three consecutive games with a quad injury while Sano sat out Tuesday with a lower back strain.

Minnesota is 3-11 against Detroit this season but got a little payback Tuesday while snapping an 11-game road losing streak.

"They've been tough on us and we've had difficulty finding ways to win games in this building," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We haven't had a road win in a long time. I'm more focused on those things. I know it disrupts them for a day but they've got a lot of games left, and a lot of things can happen for them these last few weeks."

The Twins need to win at least nine of their remaining 17 games to avoid a 100-loss campaign.

"This has definitely been a trying year for everybody in this clubhouse and organization," Molitor said. "When you have at least somewhat elevated expectations and you fall short -- in our case, significantly short -- you have to look inside. You're constantly trying to evaluate how you're going about doing your job, ways you can do it better and trying to draw things out of people the best way you can."

Right-hander Tyler Duffey, who starts Wednesday, hasn't found any bright spots facing the Tigers this year. He's lost both of his outings against them while posting a 6.75 ERA. He's 2-2 with a 4.15 ERA in four career starts against them.

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