In addition, Miguel Cabrera hit his 43rd home run, tying him with Josh Hamilton for the American League lead. Cabrera leads the AL in batting average and RBIs.
Saturday's events pushed the Tigers' lead in the AL Central to two games, and they can zero in on the division title with a rubber-match win against the Twins on Sunday afternoon. With four games remaining, the magic number is three, which means any combination of three Detroit wins or Chicago losses gives the Tigers the division crown.
"Everybody's on the same page. I think we need to play our game," scheduled starter Anibal Sanchez said after his most recent outing, his best of the season. "We don't have to pay too much attention with what the White Sox are going to do, or whether they win or lost. We need to keep focusing on our game."
Sanchez (9-13, 3.95 ERA overall) blindsided the Royals with a complete-game three-hitter Tuesday, notching 10 strikeouts and walking just one batter in a 2-0 victory. It was the first time he had gone beyond seven innings this season.
"That's why the team [brought] me here," Sanchez said. "[To help] the team make the playoffs. That is what I'm doing. When I get the chance to be on the mound, I'm just going to do my best to pitch games like that."
Twins right-hander Liam Hendriks (1-8, 6.09) didn't see any momentum from his first career win carry over into his most recent outing. The Yankees got to him for six runs in 6 1/3 innings in a 6-3 loss on Monday.
It's all about player evaluation for the out-of-contention Twins, as it has been for some time. Ostensibly, that could create conflicting emotions between Tigers manager Jim Leyland and Twins skipper Ron Gardenhire, but Gardenhire said that wasn't the case.
"No. I have all the respect in the world for Jim Leyland as a baseball guy," Gardenhire said. "We talk an awful lot about the game and about the players. That's the fun part of the game as managers, we get to pick each other's brains. Moreso I pick his brain than anything else -- he's been around a long time. Once the game starts, I think he'd tell you the same thing. We're trying to figure out how to beat their team. It's not beat the manager, it's beat their team. And he's trying to figure out how to beat our team.
"I know people love to say 'matchup of managers' here, but it's really about a matchup of teams. We want to win ballgames, whether it hurts [Detroit's] chances or not. Our goal is to give respect to the game and play the game the right way, do everything we can to win. That's all we're trying to do."
The Rays, who are trying to streak their way into their own playoff spot, could well again be a help Sunday. They have AL Cy Young candidate David Price on the mound in the rubber game, with rookie left-hander Jose Quintana going for Chicago.
A win for the Twins on Sunday would knot the season series between with the Tigers at nine wins apiece. Minnesota hasn't won the season series since 2009.
Tigers: Holaday on paternity leave
Detroit's third catcher, Bryan Holaday, returned home to Texas to be with his wife for the birth of their child. Don Kelly is the team's emergency catcher until Holaday returns, presumably soon.
Twins: Escobar's elbow leaves him day-to-day
Infielder Eduardo Escobar's return is up in the air after he was hit on the left elbow by a pitch in the Twins' 4-2 win over the Tigers on Friday.
X-rays were negative.
"He's really sore," Gardenhire said. "I don't think we'll probably put him out there until he tells me."
The Tigers are 17-9 on Sundays, and they're 40-28 against opponents from the AL Central.
Minnesota's Josh Willingham has 110 RBIs, the most in the Majors for a player on a new team in 2012.