'A matter of survival': Twins slug four more home runs to take series from Tigers
Detroit — For all intents and purposes, this one was over three batters into the game. And when the smoke cleared, the Minnesota Twins had slugged four more home runs, cruised to a 12-2 romp in the rubber match of a three-game series.
It was the Tigers' 13th loss in their last 15 games at Comerica Park and there were a lot of faraway looks on the faces in the clubhouse afterward.
"Can it be difficult, yes," said Nick Castellanos, one of the few players left who remember better times around here. "Can it be draining, yes. But are there lessons to be learned in all of this, absolutely."
He thought on that for a beat and then continued.
"This game ain't easy and this game ain't fun," he said. "But every day you've got to show up and be ready to whup somebody's (butt). And if that doesn't happen, you turn the page and start fresh the next day.
"The more you allow pages to linger and not flip it, the longer stretches like this can last."
That the bulk of these recent losses have come against some of the better teams in the American League, the Astros, Rays and red-hot Twins, was of no consolation.
"What kind of team would we be if we show up wanting to play the lesser teams in the league," Castellanos said. "If we expect to win this division, before we had to go through Cleveland, but now we have to go through these guys (the Twins).
"And they just beat us by 10 runs."
This game screamed mismatch from the get-go. Nobody hits left-handed pitching better than the Twins. They came into the game Sunday with a MLB-leading .300 average and .872 OPS against lefties. And they padded those numbers against Tigers’ lefty Ryan Carpenter.
They battered him for eight runs and 10 hits in less than four innings. Eight of the balls they hit against him left the bat with an exit velocity better than 100 mph, including a 436-foot, two-run home run by Nelson Cruz in the first inning.
"The way their guy has been pitching (Twins starter Jake Odorizzi), you knew we had to stay in the game early," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That didn't happen. We got down early and then it was just a matter of survival."
Cruz has hit 28 home runs against the Tigers in his career, 17 at Comerica Park, including three in the postseason. He and Royals' Alex Gordon are tied for the most regular season home runs at Comerica Park with 14, and Cruz has done it 50 less at-bats.
"It’s just one of those days where I wasn’t able to execute pitches and drive the ball down in the zone like I wanted to," Carpenter said. "They’re a really good hitting team, so they took advantage of it."
The four home runs Sunday kept the Twins on pace to shatter the Major League home run record. They hit eight in the series and have 125 on the year. Besides Cruz, Miguel Sano, Byron Buxton and Eddie Rosario also homered.
"We kept attacking their hitters and when we did, they kept whacking it," catcher John Hicks said. "You have days as a catcher where it seems everything you put down gets hit. That's the way it was today."
The Tigers managed just five hits in six innings against Odorizzi. Christin Stewart, who has hit safely in 14 of 17 games (hitting .359 over that stretch), had two more hits.
"You don't feel that great about yourself when you look at the scoreboard and see you and your teammates getting your butts kicked," Castellanos said. "It goes back to turning that page, but that is very easier said than done.
"If it was as easy as just me saying it, everyone would be an all-star, right?"
Gardenhire can sense some bewilderment and frustration bubbling in the dugout and clubhouse.
"For me, it's just going through the clubhouse making sure they understand that this is part of it," he said. "We have to deal with it. We're going to have to keep battling and I think they know that.
"It was quieter in the dugout today and that was disappointing. That hasn't happened too often. But that's my job, to keep these guys playing hard every night and enjoying the game as best we can and try to entertain our fans."
Like Castellanos said, easier said than done.
"It's a challenge right now," Gardenhire said. "But this will make us better. Somewhere down the road we're going to be better for it. We just have to keep plugging away. Our fans keep coming out and cheering and we appreciate that.
"Hopefully, we will get better as we go along this season."