Live Tigers blog: Tigers take WC spot, sweep doubleheader

Al Willman
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers' Jarrod Saltalamacchia hits a sacrifice RBI fly ball off Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana during the second inning.

The Tigers, with their 4-2 doubleheader sweep over the Twins on Thursday, took — for the moment — sole possession of the second American League wild card spot.

The Tigers passed the Orioles, who lost 5-3 to the Red Sox on Thursday night.

Justin Verlander (15-8) pitched a gem for the Tigers (81-70), going six innings and allowing two runs on four hits while striking out 11 and walking two. Francisco Rodriguez pitched a perfect ninth for his 44th save.

Ervin Santana (7-11) started for the Twins (55-98), going six innings and allowing four runs (two earned) on five hits, while striking out eight and walking four.

The Tigers scored two in the second, before Verlander gave up lead off home runs in the bottom of the third and bottom of the fifth, before the Tigers retook the lead in the top of the sixth — scoring two more runs.

The Tigers return home for a three-game weekend series against the Royals (77-76). Michael Fulmer (10-7, 3.03 ERA) will start for the Tigers at 7:10 tomorrow, while Danny Duffy (12-2, 3.18 ERA) goes for the Royals.

Tigers go 1-2-3 in 9th, turn to K-Rod

The Tigers went down in order in the top of the ninth inning, for the second straight time.

Erick Aybar struck out looking to lead off the inning before Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out looking and Andrew Romine lined out to right field to end the inning. Going to the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers lead 4-2 and will turn the ball over to closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Rondon strikes out side in 8th

Right-hander Bruce Rondon entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, replacing lefty Justin Wilson.

Rondon walked Logan Schafer to lead off the bottom of the inning. With Jorge Polanco up, Rondon threw a wild pitch that allowed Schafer to take second base. Polanco struck out looking on a 97 mph fastball. Rondon followed with two more strikeouts — getting Kennys Vargas looking at a fastball on the outer half of the zone, before striking out Robbie Grossman to end the inning.

After eight, the Tigers are still up 4-2.

Tigers go down in order in 8th

The Tigers went 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth inning.

Victor Martinez flew out to right field before J.D. Martinez struck out swinging. Justin Upton then grounded out to first to end the half inning. Going to the bottom of the eighth, the Tigers are up 4-2.

Left-hander Wilson fans 2 in 7th

Left-hander Justin Wilson replaced Justin Verlander to start the bottom of the seventh, striking out pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki and Byron Buxton before walking James Beresford to extend the inning. Wilson got Brian Dozier to fly out to center field to end the inning. After seven, the Tigers still lead, 4-2.

Tigers put man on 3rd, don't score in 7th

The Tigers had a runner at third base with nobody out in the top of the seventh inning, and failed to turn that into a run.

Jose Iglesias doubled to lead off the inning, taking third on a fielding error from right fielder Max Kepler — who hit the short wall in right field foul territory attempting to make a play on the ball. After Tyler Collins struck out swinging — his third strikeout of the game — Miguel Cabrera lined into a double play at third base. Eduardo Escobar dove to make a grab on Cabrera’s line drive, and then dove into the bag at third to double off Iglesias. Going to the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers lead 4-2.

Verlander fans 3 more in 6th, has 11 Ks

Justin Verlander, after allowing the leadoff batter to reach, struck out back-to-back-to-back batters for the second time in the top of the sixth inning.

Verlander walked Jorge Polanco — the first batter in three innings not to hit a leadoff home run — before striking out Max Kepler, Robbie Grossman and Eduardo Escobar (3rd) in order, for the 11th strikeout of the game for Verlander. After six, the Tigers lead 4-2.

Verlander’s day appears to be done, after allowing two runs on four hits, while walking two and striking out 11. Left-hander Justin Wilson was warming up for the Tigers in the sixth, and Verlander shook hands with Tigers manager Brad Ausmus upon returning to the dugout.

Tigers retake lead in 6th

The Tigers retook their lead in the top of the sixth inning, thanks to a little plate discipline.

J.D. Martinez popped out to second base on the first pitch of the inning, before Justin Upton singled, reaching second on a throwing error from Brian Dozier. Erick Aybar singled in Upton and took second on the throw home. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia batting, Aybar scored on two wild pitches, adding to the lead for the Tigers. Saltalamacchia then struck out looking for the second out. Andrew Romine struck out swinging to end the inning — after Juan Centeno threw to first to complete it. Going to the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers have a  4-2 lead.

JV allows solo shot in 5th

For the second straight inning, Justin Verlander surrendered a leadoff home run.

This time, it came off the bat of Byron Buxton — on the sixth pitch of his at-bat. Buxton’s opposite-field home run — to right center field — tied the game. Verlander again settled in, getting James Beresford to ground out to second base before Brian Dozier flew out to center field. Logan Schafer popped out to Erick Aybar in foul territory, ending the inning. After five, the Tigers and Twins are tied, 2-2.

Tigers go 1-2-3 in 5th

The Tigers went down in order in the top of the fifth inning.

Tyler Collins flew out to left field on the first pitch of the inning, before Miguel Cabrera grounded to shortstop and Victor Martinez grounded to first base to end the inning. Going to the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers are still in the driver's seat, 2-1, over the Twins.

JV escapes bases loaded jam in 4th

Justin Verlander worked himself into a bases loaded jam with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning, but escaped it unscathed.

Verlander walked Logan Schafer to lead off the inning. He responded by striking out Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler swinging. Robbie Grossman then singled and Eduardo Escobar walked, loading the bases. Verlander struck out Juan Centeno to end the inning, and the threat. After four, the Tigers lead 2-1.

Verlander, through four innings, has eight strikeouts.

Tigers leave one on in 4th

The Tigers stranded one in the top of the fourth inning.

Erick Aybar grounded out to second base to lead off the inning. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then singled, but was erased on a fielder’s choice from Andrew Romine — who took second on a wild pitch to Jose Iglesias, who struck out swinging to end the half inning.

Going to the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers still lead, 2-1.

JV allows solo blast, fans 3, in 3rd

Justin Verlander allowed a run in the bottom of the third inning, but settled right back in after.

Juan Centeno sent a 3-2 pitch from Verlander over the wall in right field for a leadoff home run. Verlander bounced back, striking out Byron Buxton, James Beresford and Brian Dozier in order — swinging — to end the inning. After three, the Tigers lead the Twins, 2-1.

Through three innings, Verlander has five strikeouts.

Tigers leave pair on in 3rd

The Tigers stranded a pair in the top of the third inning.

Tyler Collins struck out swinging — for the second time in the game — to lead off the inning. Miguel Cabrera followed with a double off the wall in center field. He stretched a single, and was called safe on a close throw at second base — continuing his aggressive baserunning in the series. Victor Martinez then worked a nine-pitch walk, putting two on with one out. J.D. Martinez followed by striking out swinging, on three straight pitches. Justin Upton then flew out to left center field, ending the half inning. Going to the bottom of the third, the Tigers remain ahead, 2-0.

Verlander throws 1-2-3 2nd

Justin Verlander set the Twins down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the second inning.

Max Kepler grounded out to third base before Robbie Grossman hit a line drive right at Verlander, which he deflected to Andrew Romine at second base, who threw to first to complete the 1-4-3 putout. Verlander then struck out Eduardo Escobar looking — the second strikeout of the game for both — to end the inning. After two, the Tigers are still up, 2-0.

Tigers load bases in 2nd, score twice

The Tigers loaded the bases in the top of the second inning, scoring twice.

Victor Martinez led off the inning with a single, followed by walks to J.D. Martinez and Justin Upton, loading the bases with nobody out. Santana then walked Erick Aybar, scoring Victor Martinez and putting the Tigers on the board. Jarrod Saltalamacchia then hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right field, scoring J.D. Martinez. Andrew Romine popped out to shortstop for the second out of the inning before Jose Iglesias flew out to right field to end the half inning. Going to the bottom of the second, the Tigers have a 2-0 lead.

JV tosses scoreless 1st

Justin Verlander worked a scoreless bottom of the first inning for the Tigers.

He struck out Brian Dozier swinging before Logan Schafer flew out to right field. Jorge Polanco singled with two outs to extend the inning for the Twins. With Max Kepler at the plate, catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia threw Polanco out trying to steal second base, ending the inning. After one, the game is scoreless.

Santana strikes out side in 1st

The Tigers, who scored nine runs on the Twins this afternoon, could not figure out Twins starter Erwin Santana in the top of the first inning in the nightcap.

For his part, Santana struck out the side — swinging. He fanned Jose Iglesias, Tyler Collins and Miguel Cabrera in order. Going to the bottom of the first, the game is scoreless.

How to watch: Detroit Tigers vs. Minnesota Twins

The Tigers will go for a doubleheader sweep of the Twins tonight when Justin Verlander faces Ervin Santana.

Verlander (14-8, 3.22 ERA) held the Twins to two hits with nine strikeouts in eight innings on July 20. Santana pitched seven shutout innings against the Mets on Saturday and is 4-1 in his last five decisions.

In the opener of the day-night doublheader, the Tigers beat the Twins 9-2.

“These games matter," Detroit outfielder Justin Upton said. "We should be into them regardless of who’s in the stands. But we snapped out of it and started getting some runs.”

Upton hit a tiebreaking homer off Alex Wimmers (1-3) in the seventh for a 2-1 lead.

Jose Iglesias had a sacrifice fly in the eighth and Victor Martinez, who had missed two straight games because of a swollen right knee, pinch hit had a three-run home run against Pat Light in a six-run ninth.


1. Jose Iglesias, SS

2. Tyler Collins, CF

3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B

4. Victor Martinez, DH

5. J.D. Martinez, RF

6. Justin Upton, LF

7. Erick Aybar, 3B

8. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C

9. Andrew Romine, 2B

Justin Verlander, P


What: Second game of a doubleheader. Detroit won the opener 9-2.

When: Tonight, 8:10 p.m.

Where: Target Field, Minneapolis

Pitching matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (14-8, 3.22 ERA) vs. RHP Ervin Santana (7-10, 3.38 ERA)

Local TV: Fox Sports Detroit

Internet streaming: MLB.TV (Blacked out in Detroit market)

Local radio: 97.1 FM

Satellite radio: SiriusXM (Internet 849)