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Twins face Tigers with focus on field, not scoreboard

DETROIT -- Winning is more important than scoreboard-watching for the Minnesota Twins as they seek to stave off the competition for the second American League wild card.

Minnesota enters its Friday game against the Detroit Tigers with a 2 1/2-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers in the wild-card hunt.

"We talked the other day," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "We've got to try to win games. What they do is obviously going to be a factor.

"Shoot, one of those teams behind us (like) the Angels could win nine out of 10 or something. You just don't know. We've got to try to win today."

Minnesota will send right-hander Kyle Gibson (11-10, 5.07 ERA) to protect its position in the standings on Friday.

Gibson is 1-2 with an 8.20 ERA against the Tigers in four starts this season and 5-7 with a 5.66 ERA when pitching against them over his career. He is 2-4 at Comerica Park.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus waited until after Minnesota's 12-1 win over Detroit on Thursday night to reveal that he would return lefty Daniel Norris to the rotation on Friday.

Norris (4-7, 5.38 ERA) threw 58 pitches last Saturday in a three-inning relief appearance and would in theory match up well against a Minnesota team heavy with left-handed hitters.

Norris has not faced Minnesota this season but is 1-0 with a 2.76 ERA against the Twins in three career starts.

Ausmus is impressed with the Twins' unlikely bid for a postseason berth.

"No question," he said, "I don't think you imagine that a team that lost 100 and something games is going to bounce back and make the playoffs the next year.

"I just think they've got a lot good athletes over there that have gained a year of experience. Guys like (Max) Kepler, (Byron) Buxton, even (Eddie) Rosario who had been up a couple three years, has gained another year of experience. He's a much more mature player now.

"The most remarkable thing is that they're doing a lot of this damage offensively without (Miguel) Sano, recently."

Sano hasn't played since Aug. 18 after fouling a ball off his left shin, and Molitor said he is doubtful Sano would return by the end of the regular season.

"Obviously with 10 games to go, I don't think there's a very high percentage chance we'll see him before that last game against the Tigers," the Minnesota manager said. "He's just got to keep working like he's got a chance."

Molitor feels he has the proper perspective on scoreboard-watching and trying to win games.

"I went to bed pretty early last night after a short night the night before," he said Thursday afternoon. "Woke up this morning and started my routine, went and got coffee, took a little hike and thought, 'Oh yeah, I should check and see what the (Angels') result was.' So I guess that's a good sign, I'm not consumed by it."