MINNEAPOLIS -- Early on in Friday's game, right-hander Rick Porcello was struggling yet again, and looked to be headed for his fourth straight bad outing.
But after escaping a rough first two innings with minimal damage, Porcello delivered a solid outing as the Tigers rolled to an 8-1 win over the Twins in the series opener at Target Field.
The Tigers maintained their 6 1/2-game lead over the Indians, who also won, in the American League Central standings.
"We caught a break early, they had us on the ropes right off the bat there," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Rick dodged a couple of bullets, and after that he settled in and pitched very well. He got the ball on the ground, and even in those positions he came up with a couple ground balls that bailed him out, because we were in trouble."
Porcello needed a pair of big double plays -- including one he started himself with none out and the bases loaded in the second -- to get out of jams in the first and second innings.
Despite allowing three hits, two walks and hitting a batter, Porcello limited the damage to just one run, on Drew Butera's RBI single.
Porcello also was fortunate in the second, getting Ben Revere to ground out to shortstop to end the inning, as replays showed Revere may have beaten the throw. The Twins managed just five baserunners over the last seven innings after that play, only two of which advanced to second base.
"The play at first base, I know Ben was safe. That should've been another run and who knows what happens after that, but we didn't get that call," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "But we didn't do too much at all. Porcello was mixing it up, sinking it and cutting it. And we really didn't do anything. We didn't have too many more chances, to tell you the truth."
Over 6 1/3 innings, Porcello allowed just the one run on seven hits with four strikeouts against three walks. He picked up his first win in August after going 0-2 with an 11.48 ERA over 13 1/3 innings in his previous three outings.
Porcello got his 12th win of the season, giving the Tigers three pitchers with 12 or more wins through 131 games for the first time since Jack Morris, Dan Petry and Walt Terrell in 1985.
Leyland said Porcello's issue early was that he was rushing a bit, but he was strong over his final 4 1/3 innings.
"I told him, 'You can't pitch the fifth inning before you pitch the second, third or fourth innings,'" Leyland said. "I think he's in a little bit of a hurry, I think he's a little anxious. But he finally did settle in, slowed down a little bit and got much more effective once he did that."
An RBI single by left fielder Delmon Young and a sacrifice fly to right by Victor Martinez put the Tigers ahead in the third inning. They were otherwise shut down by Twins lefty Scott Diamond until the seventh.
After a leadoff single by Ryan Raburn and a sacrifice bunt to move him over, the Tigers turned a walk, two more singles and a double into three insurance runs. Austin Jackson walked, Magglio Ordonez singled, and Young hit a soft grounder down the third-base line, scoring Raburn.
Young finished 3-for-5 with three RBI singles in his return to Minnesota.
Two batters later, Martinez drove in Jackson and pinch-runner Ramon Santiago with a ground-rule double that bounced into the Tigers' bullpen in center. Martinez had four RBIs as he went 2-for-3.
"If you put a good swing on the ball, anything can happen," said Martinez, who showed no signs of being slowed by a left knee injury.
"The last two days, yesterday and today, actually was the best I've felt. My knee feels great."
Diamond left with the bases loaded, but reliever Glen Perkins gave up two big hits, making for an ugly pitching line. Diamond went 6 1/3 innings in the spot start, giving up five runs on 11 hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
"He threw the ball very well," Gardenhire said. "I don't know if he ran out of gas there in the seventh inning. He got himself into a little bit of a jam there. Perk made some pitches to Delmon, and got unlucky with a ball, and got [Miguel] Cabrera out, but fell behind on Martinez to cost Diamond some runs."
Nine of the 10 Tigers that came to the plate in the game got at least one hit. Santiago had a sacrifice fly in his only plate appearance.
"Every win is big for us right now," Cabrera said. "We've got to keep going and play good baseball right now and try to play hard."
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.