The Detroit Tigers had won four of their five previous series, and split the other with the American League West-leading Houston Astros, before heading to Minneapolis this weekend for a four-game series with the struggling Minnesota Twins.
But after blowing a 4-0 lead in a 9-4 loss on Saturday at Target Field, A.J. Hinch’s squad needs to find a way to salvage Sunday afternoon’s finale to avoid heading into the All-Star Game break on a four-game losing streak.
It won’t be easy.
Right-hander Jose Berrios (7-3, 3.36 ERA), who is 4-2 with a 6.08 ERA in 10 career appearances and nine starts against the Tigers, will start the finale for the Twins and will be opposed by right-hander Wily Peralta (2-1, 2.14), who is just 1-3 with a 5.79 ERA in 17 career appearances and three starts against Minnesota.
The Twins have won 12 of the past 15 meetings with Detroit. The Tigers have outscored Minnesota 6-1 over the first five innings in the first three games of the series, including no-hitting the Twins for 4 1/3 innings in both Thursday night’s 5-3 loss and Friday’s 4-2 setback. But Minnesota has outscored Detroit 17-3 from the sixth inning on in the three games and scored the final nine runs in Saturday’s comeback victory.
Alex Kirilloff hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning to cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-2, and Jorge Polanco followed with a three-run, go-ahead home run in the seventh. Minnesota blew it open with four runs in eighth on a two-run double by Luis Arraez, with the final two runs scoring on an Ian Krol wild pitch when catcher Eric Haase lost control of the ball and it rolled into a camera well.
“It’s a beautiful thing when you stay at it, have the at-bats you’re looking for, and you put some runs across the board,” said Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. “You get some baserunners, you look for a big swing. There are different ways to do it. Today we went deep and brought some runs in and made it happen.”
Polanco lined what proved to be the game-winning home run off reliever Joe Jimenez into the right-field bleachers in the seventh. It was his 11th homer of the season.
“Just trying to get a pitch to hit and try to hit it hard — and it happens,” Polanco said. “Just keep battling. Never give up. We’re always trying to make situations happen. It was a good game.”
Not surprisingly, Hinch had a different outlook on his team’s third consecutive loss.
“The back end of this game was a mess,” Hinch said. “We didn’t do a lot right.”
Detroit used seven relievers in the loss as Hinch decided to go with a bullpen day. That worked for five innings until Erasmo Ramirez gave up a 429-foot, two-run homer to Kirilloff in the sixth, and Jimenez yielded the three-run shot to Polanco the following inning.
“These bullpen starts, it takes a lot of guys having good days to get through them unscathed,” Hinch said. “And we were close.
“I want to win every day,” Hinch added. “If I preach winning today, I’m not going to carry this into tomorrow. You guys can cover the emotional roller coaster. I’m not going to ride it.”
–Field Level Media