MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Tyler Duffey wasn't around for the Minnesota Twins' struggles of the previous four years. And he wasn't expecting to be around for their resurgence this season.
It's unclear how much longer the 24-year-old will be pitching, so he's going to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Duffey struck out seven while pitching into the seventh inning and Eduardo Escobar homered and drove in two runs to lead the Twins to a 7-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
''I had no idea where I'd end up this year,'' said Duffey, who was pitching for the first time in a week with the Twins trying to limit his innings. ''I was just hoping to be in Triple-A and finish strong there. I'm getting the opportunity to pitch in some really meaningful games. That's all you can ask for.''
Duffey (3-1) gave up one run on seven hits and walked two in 6 1-3 innings, and Joe Mauer went 3 for 5, extending his streak of games reaching base to 34 for the Twins, who trail the Texas Rangers by one game for the American League's second wild card.
Kyle Lobstein (3-8) gave up six runs on seven hits in just 1 2-3 innings for the Tigers. J.D. Martinez had two hits for Detroit, but Steven Moya had four of the team's 11 strikeouts.
The Twins returned home from a 10-day road trip pretty much right where they left off - neck-and-neck with the Rangers for the second wild-card spot. They play 13 of their final 20 games at home, including 10 in a row against the Tigers, Angels and Indians.
''They haven't been overly intimidated by road games or hostile crowds or adversity or tough losses,'' manager Paul Molitor said. ''They've found a way to bounce back.''
Playing their first meaningful September games in five years, the Twins jumped on Lobstein and the Tigers right off the bat.
Mauer had three hits in the first three innings, Trevor Plouffe's two-run double highlighted a four-run first inning and Escobar's homer landed in the second deck in left field to give Minnesota a 7-0 lead in the fourth.
It was another mess for the Tigers, with Martinez misplaying Plouffe's opposite field shot off the wall in right, Lobstein getting hit hard and being charged with a balk all in the first inning. The Twins sent 17 hitters to the plate in the first two innings.
''It's like taking a punch to the gut early, I mean you hope something sparks you along the way,'' Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. ''We had some good at-bats, we had some opportunities. We had some guys in scoring position, but we didn't really capitalize in terms of scoring runs.''
It's been quite a reversal of fortunes for these two teams, with the once-mighty Tigers bottoming out this season and the Twins (75-68) - losers of at least 90 games in each of the past four seasons - vaulting back into the postseason picture.
The Tigers (65-78) are 19 games behind AL Central-leading Kansas City.
Torii Hunter had two hits and an RBI for Minnesota.
Even though the Twins are back in the playoff race for the first time since 2010, it was clear on Monday night that it's still a Vikings town.
The Vikings opened the season with a late game in San Francisco, and the announced crowd at Target Field of 17,833 was the second-lowest of the season for the Twins, who had not been under 25,000 for a home game since July 6.
Tigers: Anibal Sanchez said after the game he would not make a start on Wednesday as initially planned. Sanchez said his shoulder flared up again and he now plans to see a specialist, perhaps Dr. James Andrews.
Twins: All-Star closer Glen Perkins threw a bullpen session on Monday to test his ailing back. He said everything went well and he will throw another bullpen on Wednesday. If all goes well then, Perkins said he hoped to be ready to return to action by Friday. He has not pitched since Sept. 1.
Phil Hughes (10-8, 4.49) will start for the Twins against Alfredo Simon (12-9, 4.94). Hughes will be pitching for the first time since Aug. 9 due to a back injury. Simon is coming off a rough no decision outing in which he allowed five runs on nine hits - including a pair of home runs - in 6 2-3 innings against Cleveland.