DETROIT (AP) - Jose Valverde dropped to one knee, then quickly stood up on his left foot, kicking his other leg high in the air and pumping his right fist.
Even by the big closer's exuberant standards, this was a special celebration.
Valverde set a team record with his 43rd save, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Minnesota Twins 2-1 on Sunday for their ninth straight victory. The last time the Tigers won this many games in a row was 1984, when they went on to win the World Series.
``I'm happy,' Valverde said. ``My team is in first place, and that's what I want.'
The Tigers lead second-place Chicago by 10 1/2 games in the AL Central, and their magic number is seven.
Doug Fister (8-13) pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing three hits in another terrific start for the Tigers. He's 5-1 since being acquired from Seattle on July 30.
Joaquin Benoit pitched the eighth, and Valverde allowed a run in the ninth but held on for his 43rd save in 43 chances. Valverde walked Joe Mauer and Luke Hughes singled to start the ninth. Chris Parmelee flied out to shallow left, and pinch-hitter Jason Kubel drove in a run with a groundout to first, moving the tying run into scoring position.
When Rene Tosoni struck out swinging to end it, the always-demonstrative Valverde began his latest celebration at the mound. Detroit's Todd Jones had 42 saves in 2000.
``It's good, but I want to go to the World Series, big celebration, and be the champion,' Valverde said.
Detroit scored both of its runs in the first. Delmon Young singled in Austin Jackson and Magglio Ordonez scored when Victor Martinez bounced into a double play. Second baseman Matt Tolbert made a key error on a potential double-play grounder by Miguel Cabrera.
Martinez ended up hitting into four double plays, becoming the first player to do that since Joe Torre on July 21, 1975, for the New York Mets against Houston, according to STATS, LLC.
Martinez grounded into double plays in his first three at_bats, then came up with a man on first in the eighth and hit a line drive that was caught by Parmelee, the first baseman. After diving toward first to make the catch, Parmelee simply reached out and touched the base to double off the runner.
``I felt like high-fiving Victor - he was making outs like crazy for us,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire joked. ``Apparently, it takes a great hitter to make eight outs in one game, because I've never seen anything like that. Even he looked like he was laughing after the line drive for the fourth one. If I were Victor, I'd probably go home and have a glass of ... orange juice. Maybe even with something else in it.'
Minnesota starter Scott Diamond (1-4) allowed two runs, one earned, and seven hits in six innings. He struck out four and walked four.
The Twins have lost eight of nine.
Fister was acquired to give the Tigers more pitching depth, but he's staked a legitimate claim to being Detroit's second-best starter behind Justin Verlander. In his last five starts, he's allowed three earned runs in 36 2-3 innings, striking out 36 and walking four.
Minnesota had runners on first and second with one out in the fifth, but shortstop Jhonny Peralta made a nice stop on Tolbert's grounder for a force play at second. Fister struck out Drew Butera to end the threat.
Fister finished with five strikeouts and two walks.
The 6-foot-8 Fister also made a couple graceful defensive plays. The right-hander knocked down one comebacker with his glove hand, then scooped up the ball without breaking stride and threw to first for an out. He later jumped to catch a soft line drive up the middle.
``That's something I take pride in, something I have fun with,' Fister said. ``The best advice I ever got was: 'Try and stay athletic and have some fun.''
NOTES: The game was played in 2 hours, 19 minutes. ... The Tigers and Detroit Lions won on the same day for the first time since Sept. 30, 2007. ... Minnesota INF Danny Valencia was scratched from the lineup with right shoulder soreness. ... Ordonez extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a first-inning single. ... The Tigers travel to Chicago for a three-game series with the White Sox. They'll send Rick Porcello (13-8) to the mound Monday night against John Danks (6-11). ... Minnesota's next game is Tuesday night at Kansas City. Carl Pavano (8-11) will start for the Twins against Bruce Chen (10-7).
The Associated Press News Service
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