McCann's career day powers Tigers to sweep

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
James McCann high-fives Tyler Collins after McCann scored on a two-run double by Ian Kinsler in the second inning.

Minneapolis – James McCann loves Target Field. In fact, the Tigers might want to double check to make sure he got on the airplane for the trip home Thursday night.

“I don’t know what it is,” said McCann, who posted his first career four-hit game in the Tigers series-sweeping 8-5 win over the Twins. “There’s definitely some memories in this ballpark.”

In nine games at Target Field, he’s hitting .500, with an OPS over 1.3.

His first career home run came here – an inside the park shot in April of 2015. He hit a very different kind of home run Thursday. It was a majestic, 428-foot blast over the 23-foot wall in right-center field -- a three-run pop that put the Tigers up 6-0.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 8, Twins 5

“It’s something I really worked on in the off-season, staying through the ball more and developing that power the other way,” McCann said. “Watching J.D. (Martinez) and Miggy (Cabrera), guys with that kind of power. Early in the season, after the (ankle) injury, I wasn’t allowing myself to use my hands, wasn’t allowing my body that I trained to work for me.

“The adjustments I’ve made have all been to allow myself to allow that to happen.”

He got rid of his leg kick and has gone to more of a toe-tap timing mechanism in his swing. That, coupled with the gradual healing in his right ankle, has helped turn his season around offensively.

“The four-hit game, that’s a special feeling,” he said. “It’s even more special getting the win and getting out of here with the sweep.”

Like Cabrera Wednesday night, McCann had two cracks at completing the cycle. But as with Cabrera, the triple never came.

“It did cross my mind,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. But, in my early at-bats I was just trying to hit it hard. I made it a point to stay with the same approach.”

In his last 10 games, McCann is 11-for-30 with three homers and eight RBIs. Since July 27, he’s hitting .316 with six homers and 18 RBIs.

The Tigers won the three games by a combined score of 25-12 (seven of the Twins runs came after the Tigers led by six runs or more). It was their fourth straight win overall and the fourth straight game in which they scored eight or more runs (35 total). The Tigers hadn’t done that since 2011.

“It’s not that simple in baseball to come into any town and sweep,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It’s tough to do. It’s just the nature of the game. But our bats have started getting hot and the pitching’s held up.”

Ian Kinsler, who was in a 0-16 slump and was given the night off Wednesday, whacked a two-run double in the second inning. Kinsler also stole two singles from the Twins with diving stops on balls hit to his left.

Victor Martinez contributed a two-run double in the sixth.

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“That’s how our team was built,” Ausmus said. “We’re built to slug. The pitching has been solid, especially since the All-Star break, but we are built to slug. It was nice to see us do it.”

The Tigers starting pitching, which had a 4.57 ERA before the All-Star break, came into the game with the third best ERA in baseball since then (3.42). And left-hander Daniel Norris kept that stat in place.

He battled through 6⅓ innings – the third longest outing of his big league career -- allowing six hits (and no walks) and just two runs.

“Body-wise and stuff-wise, it was another one of those games where you go out without your best stuff and you have to grind through it,” Norris said. “That’s what we did today…But it shows me I can compete without my best stuff and get deep in the game and give us a chance to win.

“Ultimately, that’s what you want to do.”

Norris said his head was congested and it took him a couple of innings to start feeling like himself. When told that Norris said he didn’t feel good physically, Kinsler shook his head.

“He looked good physically to me,” he said. “Maybe he should not feel great physically from now on. I thought he threw extremely well. He used his fastball a lot and that set up everything else.”

The Twins erupted for three runs in the eighth.  Kyle Ryan, who got the last two outs of the seventh, was charged with all three, but two scored on a two-out, two-run double by Max Kepler off lefty Justin Wilson.

Francisco Rodriguez pitched a clean ninth for his 35th save.

“It’s hard to sweep a team and it’s hard to sweep a team at home,” Kinsler said. “Those guys are Major League players and they have a lot of pride over there. But we are playing good baseball right now. We just have to keep it going.”