Tigers bats go dormant in 3-2 loss to Twins
Minneapolis — There are no crystal balls in baseball. Anibal Sanchez had breezed through the sixth inning Tuesday and was effectively protecting a 2-1 lead for the Tigers. His pitch count was in good shape.
On top of that, the Tigers bullpen was thin without closer Joakim Soria, who had saved the last three games and had the night off.
So, manager Brad Ausmus let it ride with Sanchez in the seventh.
The result didn't go the Tigers' way this time. The Twins scratched out two runs in the seventh and their bullpen made it hold up for a 3-2 win.
"That's how baseball is," Ausmus said. "You never know how it's going to go inning to inning. Sanchez's pitch count was down, he's one of our best pitchers — I felt like our odds with him in the seventh were good.
"And even though he gave up a couple of runs, I still felt like, as we were going through that inning, he was our best chance of getting out of that inning."
The win not only ended the Twins' four-game losing streak against the Tigers, it was the first time they had a lead in the last 24 innings.
"(Sanchez) pitched a great ballgame," Victor Martinez said. "He kept us in the game. The offense wasn't able to put anything together."
Sanchez escaped trouble in the fifth inning when right-fielder J.D. Martinez threw out Oswaldo Arcia trying to score from second.
After a quick one-two-three sixth inning, the Twins got to Sanchez quickly in the seventh. A leadoff single by Eduardo Nunez and a double by Eduardo Escobar tied the game 2-2.
Sanchez struck out Arcia but left an off-speed pitch over the plate to Kurt Suzuki, who slammed it into center field to score Escobar.
"Nothing was different (in the seventh)," said Sanchez, now 1-3. "I was mixing my pitches like I'd been doing the whole game. They got good contact. Escobar, I was behind in the count and I think he was waiting for my change-up.
"But in the end, I felt strong physically. I threw a good ballgame."
Sanchez and that seventh inning was not the issue for the Tigers. This was on the offense, which was shackled by a right-hander who wasn't in the Twins rotation coming out of spring training.
Mike Pelfrey, a former first-round pick of the Mets, had just 37 big league starts since 2011. It has taken him this long to regain form after Tommy John surgery in 2012.
But the way he pitched against the Tigers Tuesday, it might as well have been 2010, when he was at the height of his powers.
"His ball had a lot of movement," Victor Martinez said. "We got him a couple of times with good hitter's counts and, myself, I just missed his pitch. But he's good. He was real aggressive and he used his fastball a lot. You have to give him credit and move on."
Pelfrey allowed three hits and struck out seven through seven innings. He impressively struck out Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes in order in the second. Of the two runs the Tigers mustered, one was earned.
He allowed a two-out single to Anthony Gose in the third which scored Alex Avila, whom Pelfrey walked twice. Avila advanced into scoring position on an error by shortstop Danny Santana.
"He looked a little sneaky and he did seem to have a heavy sinker, or a heavy runner that came in on our right-handed hitters," Ausmus said. "He even back-doored it to some our right-handed hitters. He was tough on us."
The only true mistake Pelfrey made was pitching to Cespedes with two outs and first base open in the fourth. Aside from owning the Twins (.380, 24 RBIs in 20 games), Cespedes was hitting .500 with two home runs and 10 RBIs with two outs and runners in scoring position.
J.D. Martinez had doubled with two out. With Avila on deck, Pelfrey challenged Cespedes and lost. Cespedes doubled off the wall (411 feet) in center.
That was the last bit of offense from the Tigers on this night. They didn't put a runner on base after the fourth inning. Former Tiger Casey Fien retired the side in the eighth and closer Glen Perkins retired the heart of the Tigers order — Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez — on three fly balls in the ninth.