Cameron Maybin’s sprained left thumb can heal later, once the chase for the playoffs is over.
The Detroit Tigers need his help now.
Maybin reached base three times and drove in three runs, including a go-ahead two-run single in the sixth inning, to help spark the Tigers in an 8-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
”It’s just going to be worse if you make it,” said Maybin, who appeared in his second game after a stint on the disabled list. ”I am at a point where we have a lot of important games coming up, and I just feel like I need to be in the lineup whether I’m 100 percent or not. It’s tough having a thumb issue, but it is what it is.”
Anibal Sanchez (7-12) pitched seven innings to win a start on the road for the first time since the first week of the season, and the Tigers broke the game open in the seventh with soaring home runs by Erick Aybar and Victor Martinez.
Moved to the bullpen in June, Sanchez was 1-6 with an 8.76 ERA in his 10 turns outside of Detroit until this critical performance to lift the lid on a series against the worst team in the league. He surrendered six hits with no walks, following seven scoreless innings with one hit allowed against Kansas City last week.
”Every good outing he has, whether it’s at home or on the road, is a building block for him,” manager Brad Ausmus said, adding: ”It doesn’t hurt to get the monkey off your back.”
Right after the Tigers took command in the sixth, Sanchez needed only seven pitches for three outs in the bottom of the inning.
”The same approach,” Sanchez said. ”I’m always thinking to throw my first pitch for a strike and get the first guy of the inning out.”
Brian Dozier gave Minnesota the lead in the fifth with his 29th homer, a new career high, but Kyle Gibson (5-8) couldn’t hold it. He threw two of the team’s three wild pitches in the decisive sixth, when rain started to fall hard and the Tigers tallied three runs on three singles and a walk.
”Lost the feel, lost the grip, and just couldn’t find it back when I needed to,” said Gibson, who threw only 51 of 98 pitches for strikes.
Gibson was one strike away from escaping the second inning unscathed, after Justin Upton’s double put runners at second and third with one out, but Maybin forced in the game’s first run with a walk.
Maybin, hitting ninth out of precaution for the injury, walked again to lead off the fifth. He stole second, reached third on a throwing error by catcher Juan Centeno and then jogged home to tie the game on a single by Aybar.
”I’m sitting there going, `Don’t swing at the ball until you get two strikes,”’ Maybin said. ”Little things like that. I think it helps me stay with my approach a little bit more, for sure, as far as what pitch I’m looking for.”
Detroit entered the day in fourth place in the AL wild-card race, three games out of the second spot. The Tigers won for the second straight time following a 3-10 stretch that severely damaged their postseason bid, with three hits each by Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. J.D. Martinez had two hits to extend his hitting streak to 13 games, the longest active string in the league.
The Twins fell to 2-8 against the Tigers this year, losing their fifth straight game. That’s their longest skid since dropping five in a row June 14-18.
”I’m holding on the hope we’re going to play better and get back on track,” manager Paul Molitor said.