DETROIT, OCT. 11 -- The Detroit Tigers made enough mistakes and failed to convert in enough situations for an entire team to share tonight, but Darrell Evans was cast as the biggest horn-wearer of the evening.

Evans was picked off third base in the sixth inning of the Minnesota Twins' 5-3 victory, and made two fielding errors at an unlikely spot -- third base. Although the Tigers left nine men on base, Evans' base-running mistake came at the worst possible time.

The Tigers, now down by 3-1 in this best-of-seven series, are one loss away from one of the most surprising American League Championship Series defeats since the format began in 1969. Detroit had the best record in the majors this season, and to say it was favored over the Twins is an understatement.

"They're playing very good," Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson said of the Twins, who won only their 30th game of the season on the road. "Let's give them the credit,"

Although the Twins got homers from Greg Gagne and Kirby Puckett, and excellent relief performances from Juan Berenguer and Jeff Reardon, they got a lot of help from the Tigers.

In the bottom of the sixth, with the Twins up, 4-2, Detroit knocked out starter Frank Viola on a single by Chet Lemon and a looping single to right by Evans. After Dave Bergman's pinch single scored Lemon, making it 4-3, Mike Heath sacrificed Evans to third.

Lou Whitaker then came to bat. After the first pitch -- a low forkball from reliever Keith Atherton -- Minnesota catcher Tim Laudner threw to third, catching Evans off the bag by five feet. Gary Gaetti's tag easily retired Evans, who no doubt would have scored on a subsequent wild pitch by Atherton.

"It was down," Evans said. "It was down in the dirt. I just got too far off. I was just trying to be aggressive. I don't know if it was a set play or a pitchout or something. The reason I got that far off was that {Minnesota first baseman Kent} Hrbek was playing back."

"Gary {Gaetti} and I have a predetermined signal," Laudner said. "If he feels he can get him out, he puts it on. I just try to get a good pitch. You still have to throw a strike down there."

"I thought it was the turning point of the game," Tigers Manager Sparky Anderson said. "No question about it."

But Evans' troubles were not over. With Bill Madlock, the Tigers' usual third baseman, out with a sore hand incurred in the slide that knocked Toronto shortstop Tony Fernandez out for the season, Anderson has been starting Tom Brookens at third. When he used Dave Bergman to pinch hit for Brookens in the sixth, he had no choice but to send Evans out to third for defense.

Evans has played third base only a few times this season and not since Sept. 20. In the eighth, Tim Laudner hit a grounder to Evans, whose throw pulled Bergman off first. Two batters later, Steve Lombardozzi's grounder, which Brookens probably would have scooped up easily, went by a lunging Evans to bring in a key insurance run.

In the ninth, Evans again drew Bergman off first with another throwing error, but by then the Twins were in control and got their ace reliever, Reardon, on in the ninth to retire the side.

Evans usually plays the role of comforter after player mistakes, shortstop Alan Trammell said. "He's outstanding," Trammell said. "Ever since he's been here, he's been the leader. He didn't lose anything. "We had an opportunity to score some runs."

The Tigers loaded the bases in the first against Viola, but could only manage a run. In the fifth, they loaded them again with two out but right fielder Larry Herndon lined out to Gaetti at third for the last out.

"I wouldn't dare say anything about the man," Kirk Gibson said. "The man's been an inspiration to me and a lot of younger men and older men. He's the most inspirational player I've ever played with . . . He's very professional and as honest as the day is long. I guess he's sort of my hero. I take offense to people who will pin that play on him. For all he's done for us, he doesn't deserve that."