Tigers bats erupt as Ausmus serves suspension
Detroit — Twins manager Paul Molitor couldn't wait to get to his bullpen.
Prompting the question: Has the dude seen his bullpen?
The Tigers roared to life — without even needing their manager to start stripping to provide them a spark — with a seven-run seventh inning in blowing past the lowly Minnesota Twins, 7-2, on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Detroit improved to 5-0 this season against Minnesota, 4-0 under Brad Ausmus and 1-0 under Gene Lamont, the interim manager for this one as Ausmus served his one-game suspension for his sweatshirt-shedding tirade the night before.
"He's got a half-century in pro ball," Nick Castellanos said of Lamont. "He can do it."
The Tigers did practically nothing against Twins starter Phil Hughes, who allowed just two singles through six innings.
But Hughes then was gone two batters into the seventh — a Miguel Cabrera leadoff triple, and a Victor Martinez sacrifice fly — after just 75 pitches.
Molitor explained the move this way: Hughes has been having shoulder fatigue, and after 60 pitches, they start watching him closely. After 70, he starts losing velocity.
So that turned the game over to a bullpen that entered with the fifth-worst ERA in baseball, second-worst in the American League, and pitched like it.
The Tigers beat the heck out of Michael Tonkin (1-2) and Trevor May, the latter facing four batters — and allowing two home runs and two singles.
Every Tigers batter had at least a hit or an RBI in the inning, except James McCann, who struck out with one out and two on.
That was the only move Lamont struggled over, whether to pinch-hit for the wildly slumping McCann.
"I was wrong, I guess," Lamont said.
No matter, Jose Iglesias ambushed May with a first-pitch, two-run single, giving him five RBIs over the last two days — after he had three all year before Monday.
Ian Kinsler, on his bobblehead night, followed with a homer — his ninth of the season, after not getting to No. 9 until Aug. 28 last season — and J.D. Martinez homered on the next pitch for his second homer in two nights.
When it was all over, the Tigers had scored seven runs on eight hits in the seventh, after scoring eight in the first inning Monday night.
After the sacrifice fly to make it 2-1, Nick Castellanos singled to keep things going, Justin Upton doubled — and, oh, by the way, didn't strike out for just the third game this season — and Cameron Maybin followed with an RBI single, followed by another stolen base. He had two hits and a steal, like he did in his debut Monday.
"Even if I'm not Ian Kinsler or Miguel Cabrera," Maybin said, "I can affect this team in a different way."
The uprising took Mike Pelfrey off the hook, after another OK start. For the fourth time in four starts this month, he couldn't get through six innings, but he allowed just the two runs, on homers by Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano.
Still, not getting through six ticked him off, even if he does see some improvement.
"There's definitely progress," Pelfrey said, "but it's hard to be worse than the way I started."
Specifically, command bugged him, especially first-pitch strikes. He counted only six, and doesn't recall throwing a strike on the outside corner to a left-handed hitter, and that will be problematic more often than it's not.
It just didn't burn him too bad Tuesday.
In the sixth inning Kyle Ryan (1-1) got a huge double play in relief of Pelfrey — who remains winless as a Tiger — as Pelfrey, himself, had done multiple times early in the game.
Mark Lowe (despite walking the first two batters in the eighth and nearly getting the plug pulled by Lamont) and Justin Wilson pitched scoreless innings.
Wilson struck out two in a perfect ninth as the Tigers ran their winning streak to three, after losing 11 of their previous 12 games.
The mood in the clubhouse, with the loud music and the smiles, certainly reflected the change in fortunes.
"When people are winning," Castellanos said, "people are having fun."
The crowd of 27,652 wasn't having fun all night, at least until Hughes was out of there.
Hughes was absolutely cruising, despite entering at 1-6 with a 6.44 ERA. He allowed just the two singles — to J.D. Martinez and Maybin — and had retired 13 straight before Cabrera led off the seventh with the triple, a stand-up triple no less, up the gap in right-center.
Molitor, keeping that close eye on Hughes, had the bullpen warming up before the inning even started.
Cabrera's triple was just out of the reach of center fielder Danny Santana, who had robbed Upton earlier in the night. In fact, several Twins defenders made highlight-caliber plays on defense behind Hughes.
The defense, though, could do nothing with the steady stream of missiles, one after another after another, against the Twins' beleaguered relievers.