MINNEAPOLIS -- Max Kepler hit the tying home run in the eighth inning and the game-winning single with two outs in the 10th, giving the Minnesota Twins a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night that tightened the AL Central race to just a half-game deficit behind the Chicago White Sox.
Byron Buxton and Mitch Garver also homered for the Twins (34-22), who have all four of their remaining games at home, where their 22-5 record is the best in baseball. They wrap up the regular season by hosting Cincinnati this weekend.
The White Sox (34-21), who squandered a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 10th inning and lost 5-3 at Cleveland, play twice more against the postseason-bound Indians before hosting a three-game weekend series against the crosstown first-place Cubs. The White Sox hold the tiebreaker over the Twins based on a better intradivision record. The teams split their 10-game season series.
If the Twins don't retain their division title, they would still host one of the four best-of-three AL wild card series if they stay ahead of the New York Yankees (32-23).
After Jeimer Candelario's RBI single in the 10th gave the Tigers the lead against closer Taylor Rogers (2-4), pinch-runner Jake Cave promptly scored from second base on Eddie Rosario's soft single to center to begin the bottom of the inning facing Bryan Garcia (2-1). Then Kepler put another blooper in just the right place to give the Twins another dramatic win.
The Tigers did their best to play the spoiler role. Willi Castro's RBI single off Tyler Duffey in the seventh gave them a brief 3-2 lead, after they tied the game in the sixth on an error by first baseman Miguel Sano. Duffey knocked down a bases-loaded comebacker and recovered in time to grab the ball, but his low throw was dropped by Sano as Castro scored.
Daz Cameron hit two doubles for Detroit, but as he tried to score in the fifth on a two-out single, his helmet came loose around third base and appeared to slow his momentum as he struggled to push it out of his eyes. Rosario nailed him at the plate with a perfect throw from left field.
Buxton homered for the eighth time in 12 games, greeting Tigers starter Tarik Skubal with his second career leadoff home run. Buxton, who batted first for the first time since Sept. 1, 2017, was feted in the dugout with Nelson Cruz's personalized bath robe. Josh Donaldson gifted his teammates the blue, jersey-style robes before the game.
The Tigers returned to Minnesota without manager Ron Gardenhire, who abruptly retired Saturday due to ongoing health concerns. Gardenhire, who served as skipper of the Twins for 13 years and ran the Tigers for three seasons, was honored with a pregame tribute on the Target Field videoboard. The 62-year-old had to leave the Sept. 5 game at Minnesota early because of an illness.
"Gardy has been a little paranoid, as everyone is with this COVID thing all year," said pitching coach Rick Anderson, his longtime pal. "That wore on him a lot. He just never was feeling better."
Added Anderson: "We hate to see him go, but there is life after the game, too."
The Twins sent right-hander Homer Bailey to the mound after reinstating him from the injured list, following a 51-game absence due to right biceps tendinitis. The 14-year veteran, making just his second start of the season, retired the first nine batters.
Bailey didn't record an out in the fourth inning, though, and left the bases loaded for Cody Stashak after an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera. Brandon Dixon grounded into the rare 6-2-5 double play with the infield drawn in, and Stashak escaped with the tie intact.
Tigers: Dixon, who led the team with 15 home runs last year, made his season debut after 2B Jonathan Schoop was transferred to the 45-day injured list with a slow-healing sprained right wrist.
Twins: DH Cruz missed his third straight game with a sore right knee. ... 2B Luis Arraez (left knee tendinitis) had a setback Monday when he sprained his left ankle while running the bases at the alternate training site.
Tigers: RHP Casey Mize (0-2, 6.08 ERA) will take the seventh turn of his major league career on Wednesday night. The first overall pick in the 2018 draft has allowed five runs in seven innings over two starts this year against the Twins.
Twins: RHP Kenta Maeda (5-1, 2.52 ERA) will take the mound for the two-game series finale, his last of 11 regular-season starts. He's on track to start Game 1 of the wild card series on Sept. 29.