MINNEAPOLIS — Twins starter Francisco Liriano clearly did not have his best stuff on Sunday, and he could not find a way to battle through it.
Liriano was all over the place, walking four batters and throwing two wild pitches, as he lasted just 2 1/3 innings in giving up four earned runs on six hits in the Twins’ 5-2 loss to the Tigers.
“We were trying to get [Liriano] to just throw his fastball over the plate, and he really couldn’t find anything,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “He was spinning off the ball. Hopefully, there will be better days ahead for him.”
The loss knocked the Twins back to seven games under .500 and seven games behind the first-place Tigers.
Coming into this 11-day homestand, the Twins had an opportunity to gain some ground on the leaders in the American League Central, with eight of their 12 games coming against the Indians and the Tigers.
“This homestand is not like earth-shattering or anything like that,” Michael Cuddyer said. “We’ve just got to go out and figure out a way to win on the road, starting tomorrow.”
For an inning, Liriano’s performance could have been labeled “effectively wild,” as he stranded two runners in the first without giving up a run. But in the second, the wildness caught up with him, as he spiked two sliders in the dirt.
The first wild pitch allowed Ryan Raburn to advance to second base, and the second bounced out of play, scoring Raburn from third.
“The day started off pretty good in the bullpen,” catcher Joe Mauer said. “Obviously, a little different once we got out there. I tried my best to try to settle him down a little bit. You know how hard he wants to give a good performance for the team, and we just weren’t able to get it done today.”
Liriano’s control continued to elude him in the third inning, and the Tigers consistly worked deep in the count before putting together four consecutive one-out singles to score three runs.
“We were fortunate Liriano didn’t have his command and got his pitches count up,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought we did a really good job with him today, being patient.”
Despite notching just seven outs, Liriano threw 78 pitches, 43 for strikes, though just 29 of Liriano’s pitches were actually in the strike zone, according to PitchFX data.
“He’s just trying to do too much with it,” Mauer said. “I think when Frankie gets into trouble, he overthrows a little bit. When he’s nice and relaxed, I keep telling him, his ball moves a lot.
“I know he was frustrated with it, and we’re frustrated with the loss.”
In his previous outing, Liriano had control issues as well, but managed to get through six innings against the Indians with only one run allowed on four hits. He did walk four, hit a batter and throw a wild pitch, though, in that outing.
Liriano now has eight wild pitches on the season, tying him for fifth in the American League.
“He didn’t throw the ball over, it didn’t matter who was up there,” Gardenhire said. “The ball just was not going over the plate. I think at one point he threw a couple of strikes in a row, but I don’t think there were too many times that he did that. That’s a rough outing.”
Gardenhire was forced to call on his bullpen in the third inning, asking relievers to cover 6 2/3 innings, despite having already been overworked on the homestand. They performed as well as could have been expected, giving up just one run on one hit.
Anthony Swarzak allowed a run over 3 1/3 innings, while Chuck James tossed 1 1/3 scoreless frames. Alex Burnett and Matt Capps also tossed scoreless innings to close it out.
Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello effectively shut down the Twins’ offense for six innings, allowing just two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and a pair of walks. Both Twins runs came in the fourth inning, on an RBI groundout by Jim Thome and Delmon Young’s RBI double to left.
The Twins will not have much time to muse over the disappointing loss, as they head to Texas to begin an 10-game road trip against the American League West.
“It would’ve been nice to get a few more wins here at home, but we’ve still got a lot of games to go,” Mauer said. “We’ve got to play better.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MINNEAPOLIS — After watching his teammates drop the first two games of the series, right-hander Scott Baker wanted to do all he could on Saturday to help the Twins get a win. The only thing standing in his way was a 75-80 pitch limit.
Baker squeezed a solid five innings out of his 82 pitches, and the Twins managed, with the help of four relievers, to secure a 4-1 victory over the Tigers at Target Field. With the win, the Twins pulled to within six games of the first-place Tigers.
The Twins will now have an opportunity with a win on Sunday to get back to where they were when the series began, sitting five games back in the American League Central.
“They’re obviously in front of us, and they’re one of the teams that we have to beat,” Baker said. “We’re headed in the right direction. We can compete with those guys, we know that.”
The Twins would have liked to have gotten more than five innings from Baker, but Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was happy to get the win.
“Honestly, we started getting a guy up in the fourth, at one point,” Gardenhire said. “We just didn’t want him to extend out too awful much. We’re still trying to feel our way through and see how he’s doing.”
After finishing the fourth inning with 72 pitches, Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson asked Baker how he was feeling.
Baker told them he could go another inning, and he got out of the fifth having faced just three batters.
“Today, given the situation, even with the pitch count, I didn’t want to give in to these guys,” Baker said. “They’re a good hitting lineup, and whether I threw three innings or five innings or six innings or whatever, I didn’t want to throw it over the plate and allow them to get something going.”
Thanks to Baker’s outing and a solid offensive performance, the Twins beat the Tigers for the first time since Sept. 1, 2010, snapping an 11-game losing streak against their AL Central rivals.
Baker blanked Detroit on three hits and a walk in his first start since July 5, a game which left with right elbow soreness. After giving up a pair of singles in the first, Baker cruised through the fifth, facing just one over the minimum with five strikeouts.
“[Baker] is very good at getting you out on high fastballs,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He’s got late life to it, he’s sneaky on top and he gets you to chase the ball just out of the strike zone. We were probably a little over-aggressive. He pitched a very good game coming back.”
But with Baker only going five innings, it marked the fifth consecutive game in which the bullpen was needed for three innings or more.
Anthony Swarzak, Phil Dumatrait, Glen Perkins and Joe Nathan combined to finish out the last four innings, allowing one run on four hits and a walk. Nathan pitched the ninth for his seventh save, moving him within one save of tying Rick Aguilera for the Twins’ all-time saves record.
“Swarzy came in and did what he had to do; that’s a tough lineup over there with a lot of veteran hitters who shoot the ball all over the place,” Gardenhire said. “Duma came in and got the first-pitch double-play ball, which was huge in that inning, and got through it.
“You give the ball to Perk, and what can you say? He got in a little jam there, but goodness, he’s throwing the ball so well. Then Nathan finishes it off.”
First baseman Miguel Cabrera drove in the Tigers’ only run with a double in the sixth off Swarzak, scoring Brennan Boesch from second.
Through the first two games of the series, the Twins’ offense had been shut down by Tigers right-handers Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, but they finally put some hits together against Brad Penny.
Penny went seven innings, giving up four runs on seven hits with three walks and four strikeouts.
Michael Cuddyer drove in Ben Revere with a single in the first, and Danny Valencia led off the second inning with his 12th home run, a shot into the second deck in left field. The Twins then added two more in the fourth, as Delmon Young drove in Jason Kubel and Valencia with a double to the gap in right.
“These are games where we can catch back up, so we really needed to come out and win today, so we have a chance tomorrow [to] come out and win and be five back,” Young said. “You don’t want to get back down to nine or anything and try to make it up in the second half. You still want to get to Sept. 1 to have a chance to make a run for it.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
MINNEAPOLIS — Since getting a day off, Jhonny Peralta has been crushing the ball over the last two nights against the Twins. Following a 3-for-4 performance on Thursday night, Peralta added three more hits on Friday night in the Tigers’ 8-2 victory at Target Field.
For the second straight game, Peralta finished a triple shy of hitting for the cycle. He belted a solo homer in the second, drove in two runs with a third-inning single and doubled home another run in the fifth.
The home run was his 16th of the season, and the four RBIs boosted his season total to 58.
“He’s in the midst of a real good year,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He’s really been a perfect fit for us in that area, sandwiched in between Victor and Carlos. He’s absolutely been tremendous.
“I think what he’s done so far this year is he’s capitalized on mistakes. When they’ve made mistakes, he hasn’t missed them very often.”
In 12 career games at Target Field, Peralta is batting .432 (19-for-44) with eight runs, two doubles, five homers and 15 RBIs, including seven RBIs over the last two nights. He has homered in each of his last five games in Minnesota.
Over his last 13 games against the Twins, Peralta has 21 RBIs, including 13 this season.
“He’s hot, is swinging good and is on the ball,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Right now, he’s about as locked in as we’ve seen him.”
With the win, the Tigers’ 11th straight over the Twins, they increased their lead in the American League Central to 1 1/2 games over the Indians, who lost on Friday to the White Sox.
With more than 60 games to go in the regular season, though, the Tigers still say that they aren’t paying much attention to the standings.
“At this point in the year, we’re concentrating on ourselves,” said Tigers starter Max Scherzer. “We know that we can win this division. We know that we’re good and we know we’ve got the talent. We just feel like if we go out there and compete every day and keep these winning streaks going, then we’re going to be the team on top.”
Every Tigers player had at least one hit on the night and five different players scored a run.
Left fielder Ryan Raburn went 2-for-4 on the night with a solo home run in the first and two runs scored. Magglio Ordonez also had two hits with a pair of runs scored, and Carlos Guillen drove in two with a single.
Detroit jumped all over Twins lefty Brian Duensing, who lasted just 4 2/3 innings. Duensing surrendered seven runs on nine hits, walking one and striking out seven. In two starts this year against the Tigers, Duensing is 0-1 with a 12.54 ERA, allowing 13 runs on 18 hits in 9 1/3 innings.
Duensing opened each of the first two innings with a strikeout, followed by a home run, followed by another strikeout. He struck out the side in the second to go along with a homer and a single, but big innings in the third and fifth did him in.
“Their whole lineup is stacked,” Duensing said. “They have the standard big guys in the middle of the lineup, but one through nine is pretty good and is producing right now. So that makes them even more dangerous.”
With the offense putting up plenty of runs to support him, Scherzer delivered an impressive outing, giving up just one run over seven innings of work. The right-hander struck out four batters while allowing just four hits and one walk.
Scherzer faced just four over the minimum in his seven frames, as he won for the 11th time this season. He allowed more than one baserunner only once, when the Twins had two singles and scored their only run of the game in the second inning.
Over his last three starts, Scherzer is 2-1 with a 1.66 ERA, allowing just four runs on 18 hits with one walk and 12 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings pitched.
“He really had a pretty comfortable seven innings,” Leyland said. “I thought he did a good job. He didn’t really tire at all, I didn’t think.”
Jordan Schelling is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
Leyland addresses Thursday’s decisions
MINNEAPOLIS — After right-hander Justin Verlander gave up a leadoff triple on Thursday in the second inning, Tigers manager Jim Leyland played the infield back with Jim Thome at the plate. But following Thome’s strikeout, Leyland moved the infield in with one out.
Leyland discussed the thought process behind the two decisions before Friday’s game.
“Well, with no outs, you don’t want to open up a big inning,” Leyland said. “If you’re playing in and he hits a ball in the hole that you didn’t get, you still got a guy on first. You’ve got one out and you still got the double play in order.
“Over my career, I’ve seen too many infields back and a routine ground ball to the shortstop allows a guy to trot home.”
The strategy did not really end up mattering for Leyland and the Tigers, as Verlander struck out both Thome and Danny Valencia, setting up a ground out to end the inning with the runner stranded at third base.
But Leyland said that he generally likes to bring the infield in with one out and a runner on third.
“Unless you’re worried about a big inning, I play them in all the time,” Leyland said. “If you got one out, I think you should be able to come out of it without a big inning.”
Leyland, Thome share jovial conversation
MINNEAPOLIS — Early on Friday afternoon, Tigers manager Jim Leyland sat out to enjoy a beautiful day at Target Field, which he called “gorgeous,” “beautiful” and a “tremendous” ballpark.
In the home dugout, Leyland spotted Jim Thome and struck up a conversation with the Twins’ slugger.
“I just happened to see him in their dugout, and I pointed to the that sign out there,” said Leyland, referring to the banner above center field that read ‘THOME 596,’ counting down his chase for 600 career home runs.
“I said, ‘I don’t want to see that go up while I’m here,’ kidding him,” Leyland said.
Thome didn’t really have a comeback for Leyland’s joke, but he said that he had a good time talking with Leyland.
“I didn’t really comment, you know?” Thome said. “What are you going to say? It was just all in fun and joking.”
With seven home runs on the year, Thome is within striking distance of becoming the eighth player in Major League history to reach the 600-home run plateau.
Leyland discussed with Thome how nice a ballpark Target Field is, and Thome pointed out to him that all five cities in the American League Central are great places to play.
Aside from the joke about Leyland not wanting to see Thome get any closer to 600 homers this weekend, neither discussed any specifics about their conversation. But both had plenty of good things to say about the other.
“Jimmy’s been around the game a long time,” Thome said. “He’s an old school manager that I think a lot of people have respect for. He’s always been very, very pleasant and very nice to me. Any time I’ve run across him, he’s always been very cordial, very polite. He’s just a good guy to talk to about baseball in general.”
Tigers manager recalls memories of Blyleven
MINNEAPOLIS — With former Twins right-hander Bert Blyleven set to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday in Cooperstown, he was a topic of discussion on Friday when Tigers manager Jim Leyland met with reporters.
Leyland recalled his first encounter with Blyleven in 1969, when both were in the Florida League, playing for the Tigers’ and Twins’ affiliates at the Class A level.
“He was in Orlando when I was at Lakeland,” Leyland said. “I hit against him.”
So the obvious next question was, how did Leyland fare against Blyleven in the early stages of what would eventually become a Hall of Fame pitching career?
“I was probably one of the first guys who sent him on his way to Cooperstown,” Leyland said. “And I can assure you one thing, he doesn’t remember what happened, because he had no clue who I was.”
Tigers sign Draft picks Westlake, Collier
MINNEAPOLIS — The Tigers announced on Friday that they had signed third round pick Aaron Westlake and 22nd round pick Tommy Collier.
With two more players signed from the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Tigers have now agreed to terms with 28 of the club’s selections.
Westlake, a first baseman from Vanderbilt University, earned second team All-America honors from Baseball America after hitting .344 with 18 doubles, 18 home runs and 56 RBIs in 66 games this year for the Commodores.
Collier, a right-hander from San Jacinto College, was pitching with Bourne of the Cape Cod League this summer before he signed. In five starts, Collier compiled a 3-1 record with a 1.04 ERA, allowing three earned runs over 26 innings pitched with 26 strikeouts.
MINNEAPOLIS — Typically, a leadoff triple is going to result in a run. For Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, it’s more of an opportunity to show off his stuff.
When right fielder Michael Cuddyer opened the second inning of Thursday’s 6-2 Tigers win at Target Field with a triple to the gap in right, the Twins looked like they might put together a rally. Instead, Verlander reached back for something extra to get a pair of strikeouts and a groundout to strand the runner.
“It’s not a high point, but it’s exciting and a momentum builder for our team,” Verlander said. “At that point, it’s 0-0, a leadoff triple and most of the time, that guy’s going to score. Being able to get out of that inning unscathed kind of turned it around and gave our guys a little shot in the arm.”
Verlander pitched brilliantly throughout Thursday’s game, bouncing back from his worst outing of the season to pick up his 13th win as the Tigers earned their 10th straight win over Minnesota.
With the victory, the Tigers lead the Indians, who were idle, by a half-game, taking sole possession of first place in the American League Central for the first time since July 10.
“We let one get away last night, there’s no question about that,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, referring to the club’s 7-5 loss Wednesday to the A’s. “We came here tonight, we had our horse going, he gave us a great effort, we got some big hits and we got a nice win.”
Verlander (13-5) went eight innings, giving up just one run on five hits with nine strikeouts. He did not walk a batter, and faced just two over the minimum through five innings.
He was especially impressive against slugger Jim Thome, who has seven career homers off Verlander. Thome struck out all three times he faced Verlander, stranding four runners.
“He kind of goes hand-in-hand with me as a pitcher,” Verlander said. “Early in my career, he really had my number. I made a lot of mistakes to him, and he did a lot of damage with those mistakes. It seems like over the years I’ve been able to cut down those mistakes to less and less and therefore allow less and less damage.”
Only once did Verlander allow more than one baserunner in an inning, when the Twins scored a run on three straight two-out singles in the sixth inning.
Three Twins — Alexi Casilla, Joe Mauer and Cuddyer — got hits off Verlander. The other six went a combined 0-for-19 against the Tigers ace, who topped out at 99 mph on the night.
“It’s tough because he can throw 100 [mph] and then drop of an 80-mph curveball or slider,” said Twins center fielder Ben Revere, who went 0-for-4 on the night. “He knows the back door and the front door. He can place it anywhere. He’s a big-time All-Star, and I’ll say he’ll be a future Hall of Famer, too.”
At the plate, the Tigers put up more than enough offense to support Verlander, knocking Twins right-hander Carl Pavano out of the game after just six innings. Pavano gave up five runs on nine hits with a walk and two strikeouts.
The fifth and sixth were the big innings for Detroit. Brennan Boesch belted a two-run homer — his 14th of the year — with two outs in the fifth, and the Tigers added two more in the sixth. Verlander said the Boesch home run was crucial, allowing him to be more aggressive with a three-run lead than he would with a one-run advantage.
“I just had to battle all game, and I got a pitch to hit and didn’t miss it,” Boesch said. “[Pavano’s] had a lot of success against me, so I knew I had to really focus today.”
Miguel Cabrera led off the sixth with a double, followed by a Victor Martinez single, a Jhonny Peralta double and a sacrifice fly from Carlos Guillen.
Peralta added a solo homer in the eighth, his 15th of the season, into the second deck in left off Twins reliever Chuck James. Peralta finished a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs.
Phil Coke pitched the ninth inning, allowing an unearned run on a Wilson Betemit throwing error. Betemit was appearing in his first game since being acquired on Wednesday from the Royals.
“We got some timely hits, Jhonny Peralta had a very good night,” Leyland said. “Big hits we got, and just a good win for us. Coke, I thought, looked really sharp at the end, really good.”
Ties may smooth Betemit’s transition
MINNEAPOLIS — Being traded within the same division, Wilson Betemit was pretty familiar with the Tigers before joining the club on Thursday at Target Field. But the connections between Betemit and the Tigers go beyond just the familiarity of divisional opponents.
Betemit was a teammate of right-hander Brad Penny while both were members of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he also played with fellow infielder Ramon Santiago in the Dominican Winter League.
“I’m happy to be here,” Betemit said. “I’ve got a lot of friends on this team, and I’m happy to be here today.”
Another connection that Betemit discussed before Thursday’s 6-2 victory was between him and Tigers bench coach Rafael Belliard.
Before joining the Tigers coaching staff, Belliard was a roving infield instructor in the Atlanta Braves organization from 2000-05. Betemit was a top prospect for the Braves, signing with them at age 15 in 1997 and spending all or part of four seasons in the Major Leagues with the Braves in 2001 and 2004-06.
Belliard also played a large role in Betemit’s move from shortstop to third base when the Braves decided they wanted him to switch positions.
“I always played shortstop,” Betemit said. “Working with Rafael Belliard at that time when I was moving to third base helped me a lot.”
Betemit eager to contribute to Tigers’ run
MINNEAPOLIS — On his first day with the Tigers, third baseman Wilson Betemit was in the lineup on Thursday at Target Field, batting ninth.
Betemit said he was not surprised by Wednesday’s trade, and that he was happy to be with the Tigers.
After a strong 2010 season, Betemit opened the season as the Royals’ starting third baseman, hitting .281 (57-for-203) with 15 doubles, three home runs and 27 RBIs. But once Kansas City called up prospect Mike Moustakas last month, his role changed.
“I knew this was going to happen,” said Betemit. “The guy, Moustakas, is playing every day, and they were talking about trading me. I didn’t know they were going to trade me here, and I didn’t know it was going to happen this soon, but now I’m here and it’s time to play.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said he always liked what he saw out of Betemit when the veteran infielder was in the opposing dugout.
Now, he hopes to see the same with Betemit taking over at third base, a position that has been a weakness in the Tigers’ lineup this season.
“He’s somebody that I’ve always respected when I’m in the other dugout,” Leyland said. “I worry about him when he steps in there. I hope I don’t have to worry about him anymore when he steps in there.”
Betemit, who went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a throwing error in the Tigers’ 6-2 victory, said one of the things he liked best about the trade was not having to face right-hander Justin Verlander anymore. They had faced each other only once before, but Verlander won that battle with a strikeout.
“Oh yeah, that’s what we talked about earlier,” Betemit said. “He’s a great pitcher. He’s unbelievable.”
Another aspect of Betemit’s addition that Leyland said he was happy with was the fact that the Tigers now have three switch hitters in their lineup, with Betemit joining catcher Victor Martinez and second baseman Carlos Guillen.
Betemit talked with reporters about how he initially preferred to bat only right-handed when he was a Braves prospect.
“When I was with the Braves, I didn’t like to hit lefty,” Betemit said. “My first game, against a righty you’re supposed to hit lefty, but I hit righty. I was like, ‘I don’t like to hit lefty,’ and they told me, ‘No, you’re going to hit lefty.’
“My first year, I hit like .220, my second year I hit .270. … Then my third year, I hit like .320, and then the other one .340. Then they said, ‘See? We told you you’re going to hit lefty.’ Then they told me, ‘You want to hit righty?’ I said, ‘No, I’m OK.'”
In relief, Coke brings a smile to Leyland
MINNEAPOLIS — Since moving to the bullpen at the beginning of the month, Tigers lefty Phil Coke has been impressive in six relief appearances.
In 5 2/3 innings, Coke has a 1.58 ERA, giving up just two runs (one earned) on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts. Coke pitched the ninth on Thursday, allowing an unearned run on a Wilson Betemit throwing error, and giving up a single as well in the inning.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland really liked what he saw out of Coke in the ninth.
“Coke, I thought, looked really sharp at the end, really good,” Leyland said.
“I thought he was really smooth tonight, really good. That was an easy 95 [mph]. You don’t see many lefties throwing 95, it was pretty good. The reason it was so impressive is it was coming out so easy. It looked like it was effortless.”
Despite being 0-for-17 in his career against Twins right-hander Carl Pavano, second baseman Carlos Guillen was in the starting lineup on Thursday, batting seventh.
Said Tigers manager Jim Leyland of the decision: “It’s one of those cases where he’s a veteran guy [and] he’s swinging so good.”
Leyland also said if he needed a late-inning defensive replacement in right field for Magglio Ordonez, it could be Don Kelly, Andy Dirks or Ryan Raburn. In talking about such a possibility, Leyland also raved about Kelly’s versatility.
In the Tigers’ 6-2 win, Guillen finished 0-for-2 against Pavano with a sacrifice fly. He grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fourth with the bases loaded
MINNEAPOLIS — As he saw Matt Tolbert’s double headed to the gap in right, the only thing on Twins outfielder Ben Revere’s mind was scoring from first base. With his head down, Revere took off, quickly rounding second and then third.
With the relay coming in, Revere slid between the legs of catcher Alex Avila, as the throw from Tigers second baseman Scott Sizemore went wide. Revere was safe, tying the game, but he paid a price for his efforts, taking a hard hit to the chin from Avila’s knee.
“I was running top speed trying to tie this game, and luckily I was able to tie the game at that point,” Revere said. “I really did not know. Some guys said I flipped the catcher over, but I got hit in the chin a little bit. It looked like I got more of the collision than he did, but I did anything I could to sacrifice my body to score that run.”
That hustle and determination from Revere, which drew a standing ovation from the crowd of 38,938 at Target Field, was a little like the way Wednesday’s game went for the Twins. Every time they worked hard to come back from a deficit, they were knocked back down by the Tigers, who came away with the 9-7 victory for the two-game series sweep.
“Kind of a wild one out there today,” said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. “Opportunities lost and we also picked up some big hits and battled our tails off to get back in it. But we didn’t make enough pitches.”
After coming from behind three times to tie the game or take the lead on Wednesday, the Twins were all out of comebacks in the ninth inning.
Entering the inning tied at seven runs apiece, closer Matt Capps surrendered a pair of runs in the final frame, giving the game back to the Tigers yet again.
It was a forgettable outing for Capps, who served up a two-run blast in the eighth to Jhonny Peralta, but still had a chance to pick up the win after the Twins tied it in the bottom half of the inning on Tolbert’s RBI double.
“It was a slider that I left up,” Capps said. “I just left it up over the plate and he hit it.”
According to Peralta, there was a bit of luck involved, too.
“I’m not looking for that pitch,” Peralta said. “I’m looking for a sinker and he threw me a slider right there. I don’t know how I made good contact, but it’s working.”
Peralta’s home run came just after the Twins appeared to have made the comeback needed for a thrilling victory.
Following a one-out RBI double in the seventh that cut the lead to two runs, designated hitter Jason Kubel crushed a 1-1 sinker from Tigers reliever Daniel Schlereth 460 feet into the right field seats for a three-run blast. In their 35th game, it was the Twins’ first three-run home run of the year.
Kubel’s home run was his team-leading fourth of the season, and his four RBIs in the game also put him in the team lead with 20. He added a single and a walk on a 2-for-4 day as the Twins broke out the bats for a couple late rallies that were all for naught.
“It definitely shifted the momentum on our side,” Kubel said of the home run. “But they came right back and put us back down. But we fought back, and then it got away from us again.”
With a thin bullpen, the Twins were hoping for a quality start from right-hander Scott Baker. Instead, Baker delivered a shaky, walk-filled 4 1/3 innings that put his team in a 5-2 hole through five innings.
Baker had been brilliant in his last four starts, going 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA while averaging seven innings per game. Over that span, Baker racked up 25 strikeouts against only four walks.
He continued to add to his strikeout total on Wednesday, recording six, but walks became a problem again for Baker, just as they have been for the rest of the Twins pitching staff early this season. Baker issued five bases on balls, marking a career high for the right-hander.
“Just a couple mechanical issues where at times mechanically you’re not where you need to be,” Baker said. “That translates to your hand not being where it needs to be which translates to the ball not going where you want it to go.
“Obviously we’re not robots, we’re human beings. So sometimes it’s harder to make that adjustment than others. Today, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make that adjustment.”
Baker’s walks were not the only ones that hurt the Twins on the day.
Lefty reliever Jose Mijares walked Brennan Boesch with one out in the eighth, which set up Peralta’s two-run, pinch-hit blast off Capps one batter later. With his team issuing eight walks on the day, Gardenhire was not at all pleased.
“You walk people there at the end of the ballgame, you don’t want to put anybody on base,” Gardenhire said. “That’s not being too fine, that’s just not throwing it over. You’ve got to have courage, too. Courage is throwing the ball over the plate, making them swing the bat and hopefully we’ll catch it. Sometimes you back away and you shy away and that’s not good enough.”
Gardenhire also was unhappy with the missed opportunities in the game offensively. In particular, he could not understand how center fielder Denard Span was unable to score from second base on Luke Hughes’ double in the seventh.
As Gardenhire saw it, Span should have been at least halfway to third on the play, and as the team’s fastest runner, should have scored easily.
Span eventually scored on Kubel’s home run, but it was a mistake that could have cost the Twins had it not been for their designated hitter’s three-run blast. As much as injuries, illnesses and offensive struggles have been an issue for the Twins early this season, fundamental lapses have found their way into the mix as well.
That, Gardenhire says, is something that needs to be fixed for them to start winning games.
“The fundamental stuff and the little stuff we have done so well, these guys have been part of that,” he said. “There are not any guys out there on the field who have not been part of that through Spring Training and part of the season.
“So you can’t tell me you don’t know. You can’t tell me that. It’s just not getting it done.”