DETROIT -- Obviously, this isn't where the Twins wanted to be at season's end -- fighting to avoid the cellar of the American League Central rather than in a battle for first -- but at least they'll get to have a say in the final outcome.
Six of their final 12 games are against the Tigers, who entered Friday night's game trying to make up two games on the division-leading White Sox. The winner of the division goes to the postseason, the other likely goes home.
And along with avoiding last place, playing the spoiler certainly provides motivation, manager Ron Gardenhire said.
"You're in a race here. There's other people watching this thing and there's a lot at stake for not just this team, for the Sox, a couple of other teams and Wild Card races," he said. "Out of respect for the game you go out and give them everything you have. I wouldn't expect anything less of my team.
"That's why I like these guys. No matter what our record's been we go out there and give it our best effort and try. It's a fun group."
It started Friday night at Comerica Park, where Gardenhire was expecting nothing short of an electric ballpark with a playoff feel. He was also expecting the Tigers' best baseball.
"This atmosphere right here does lift you up a little bit," he said. "You can see the intensity on the other side and hopefully we'll rise to the occasion and get up there with them, have some fun playing baseball and make it tough on them."
Gardenhire hopes team can limit Miggy's damage
DETROIT -- One way or another, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire knows Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera is going to have an impact on their three-game series in Detroit. He just hopes his pitching staff can limit the damage.
And for the skipper, that starts with effectively pitching to the Tigers' No. 1 and 2 hitters -- which in the series opener, were outfielders Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry, respectively.
"You've got to keep people off in front of him," he said. "It might be a little let through with a couple of one-run homers, but if you start letting up three- and four-run homers it's going to murder you. ... You have to keep those guys off base and make them swing the bat, and then you can work from there and you work around him the best you possibly can."
It might be easier said than done for the young Twins rotation.
This season, Jackson is batting .367 (11-for-30) against Minnesota and Berry has hit .375 (9-for-24). The two have consistently reached base and Cabrera has consistently knocked them in.
For Gardenhire, what Cabrera has done this season isn't necessarily surprising. He's watched it first-hand since the slugger joined the Tigers in 2008. However, he has made a few observations.
"I think he's getting better," he said. "I think he's the best hitter in our league. I know Joe Mauer, average-wise, but I think all-around power, the whole package. I don't think there's anybody that close to him. I've said that for a few years watching him kick the living fire out of us and everybody else."
Cabrera entered Friday's game leading the American League in two of the three Triple Crown categories with a .333 batting average and 130 RBIs. At 41 home runs, he's one behind Josh Hamilton for the AL lead.
Gardenhire is well-aware of the ongoing debate over Cabrera or Angels outfielder Mike Trout for AL Most Valuable Player. But in his mind, "it doesn't make much sense to be arguing about it."
"I'm just tipping my hat to Cabrera. He's the best player in our league. He should be the MVP," he said. "If we were to stop right now, there's no doubt in my mind. Going for a Triple Crown. That's an MVP season."
When informed the sabermetrics say differently and lean in Trout's favor, he wasn't impressed.
"If you're going for a Triple Crown and you've got his numbers, you can 'saber' all you want to," Gardenhire said. "Those numbers blow your brain. And I know Trout's do too, that's pretty good numbers. ... But look at Cabrera's numbers. That's ridiculous."
• Pitcher Chris Parmelee's wife gave birth Friday. He is still expected to return to the team Monday.
• Mauer's batting average entering Friday was .321. He trails Cabrera (.333), Trout (.324) and Derek Jeter (.321) for the batting title. He has raised his average 12 points in the last 15 games -- hitting .426 during that span.
• Since returning to the lineup on Sept. 12, Denard Span has hit safely in seven of eight games and has a .324 average on the month.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.