Minneapolis — For a few innings there Saturday night, the Tigers were playing a brand of baseball that may have put manager Ron Gardenhire in mind of some of his over-achieving Minnesota teams a decade back.
"We have guys now who can do those things," Gardenhire said. "I love to see that kind of baseball."
The Tigers played with real verve, stealing runs and making diving catches, building a 4-1 lead against the Central Division-leading Twins.
But you know what trumps verve — three-run home runs. The Twins turned the game around with a five-run fifth inning — capped by a three-run bomb by Miguel Sano — and beat the Tigers 8-5.
"Any time a team comes out and gives me four runs, I feel like I should be able to keep the game in control — which I didn't do tonight," said Tigers starter Edwin Jackson, the victim of that Twins' uprising. "That game is on me. I take responsibility for it."
Jackson gave up a home run to the first batter he faced, Max Kepler, then settled in striking out four in three scoreless innings. But in the fifth, he gave up doubles to Jake Cave and Kepler, infield singles to Jorge Polanco and Nelson Cruz, then the towering home run to Sano on a regrettable slider that hung over the heart of the plate.
"Two seeing-eye hits and then he makes a bad pitch and there you have it," Gardenhire said. "It's a little unlucky because I thought he was throwing the ball great."
Jackson wasn't consoled.
"I felt like I made a couple of pitches that could've ended the inning, but you still have to continue to make pitches," Jackson said. "Regardless of what happens. I left a slider up to Sano and he made me pay for it. That's what the game came down to, just a matter of making that pitch and not making that pitch."
Cave continued to menace Tigers pitching, too. He came into the series with three home runs and doubled his total in two games. He hit two solo bombs on Friday and then took left-handed reliever Matt Hall onto the berm in dead center field Saturday — a two-run shot in the sixth inning.
Before the home runs, though, the Tigers had hushed the sellout crowd at Target Field, especially after they stole a run in the fourth inning.
Already up 2-1 after a home run by Dawel Lugo and an RBI single by Harold Castro, they had runners at the corners with two outs. Victor Reyes, who had three hits on the night, singled.
Travis Demeritte scored from third and Lugo went from first to third. Reyes then got himself caught in a rundown between first and second. Lugo broke for home and Twins second baseman Luis Arraez threw the ball behind him, back to third base.
The throw from third baseman Sano got to the plate in time, but Lugo slid around the tag.
"You try to force the team to have to make a great play to get you out," Gardenhire said. "I'm excited when that stuff happens. I've said all along we're going to get there with a team we that can do those things.
"I've always enjoyed that part of baseball, forcing the issue, trying to take the extra base. You will make some outs and people are going to say, 'Boy, that wasn't a good out.' But I don't know about that."
It's worth the risk, Gardenhire said, because, "it puts it in their mind that we are going to be hauling around those bases."
Harold Castro made two superb plays in center field, too. He laid out on a sinking liner and took a potential RBI hit away from Mitch Garver. And that ugly fifth inning would have been worse if not for Castro’s running catch on a line drive hit directly over his head by Arraez.
There are two Castros in the Tigers' lineup now.
This was the Major League Baseball debut of shortstop Willi Castro and he came away with a souvenir. He doubled off the wall in right field — missing a home run by a couple of feet — in his third at-bat in the sixth.
"Dream come true," Castro said. "I was a little nervous, but when I got that first ground ball I started to feel better. Then when I got my first hit, my first big-league double, I felt really good."
He ended up with two hits.
"I think he handled himself fantastic," Gardenhire said. "Running the bases, hitting a bullet off the wall, making a nice play coming across the middle. He belongs, you can tell.
"He's not afraid of this and he wasn't overwhelmed."
Castro looked around and saw Lugo at third base and Ronny Rodriguez at second, Harold Castro and Victor Reyes in the outfield and he had to check himself for a quick second.
"I thought I was in Toledo," he said with a smile.