Minny-mized: Tigers fail to close deal as Twins sweep doubleheader
Minneapolis — The Twins went out of their way to make Game 2 of the doubleheader Friday feel like a home game for the Tigers — which, technically, it was, even though it was played at Target Field.
This was the makeup of the game that was rained out last Friday at Comerica Park and the Twins used the Tigers’ players’ graphics on the big scoreboard during pregame introductions and played their walk-up songs.
They drew the line, though, at giving them any advantages on the field.
After the Twins rallied to tie the game 2-2, the game went into extra innings, which this year starts with a runner at second base. Reliever Joe Jimenez, with one out, gave up an RBI single to Marwin Gonzalez and the Twins finished off the sweep, 3-2.
"We scored two runs all day," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's not going to help you win too many games. We tried to hang in there with our pitching but it was just one of those days — they got the big hits and we didn't."
Suddenly the Tigers, after winning six straight games, have now lost three straight. They're two games under .500 and three games out of the wild card race.
"It's really important we come out tomorrow and get a win," said Jonathan Schoop, who tripled in a run and scored in the Tigers' two-run third inning. "We gotta do what we've got to do, whatever it takes to get a win. We've already had a long losing streak and you don't want to go through that again."
The Tigers will lament three chances to score at least one other run in this one.
Schoop started the bottom of the eighth at second base and never moved. Right-hander Trevor May struck out Miguel Cabrera swinging at a breaking ball in the dirt, got Jeimer Candelario looking at a 97-mph fastball on the inside corner, and blew away Willi Castro with 98-mph heat.
"We're bummed," Gardenhire said. "We just lost a doubleheader, so it got a little quiet. We had a man on second just like they did, but we couldn't come up with a hit. They threw some pretty good pitchers at us, too.
"It was two good ballgames. We just couldn't drive in any runs."
Go back to the third inning. The Tigers, who dropped the opener 2-0, hadn't scored a run in 11 innings going back to the fifth inning Wednesday in Milwaukee. And they were looking for their first hit off the game when Victor Reyes poked a single against reliever Sean Poppin with two outs.
Schoop, the former Twin, followed with a slicing line drive to right field.
Rookie Brent Rooker, who put the Twins up 1-0 with his first big-league hit in the top of the third, got a little aggressive and tried to make a diving catch. He had no chance. The ball rolled past him and Schoop ended up at third.
Instead of a two-out single, Schoop had a game-tying triple. And on the next pitch, Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 11 with an RBI single — 2-1 Tigers and the inning wasn't over.
Lefty Caleb Thielbar, who pitched at Toledo last year, walked Candelario and gave up a single to Castro to load the bases. Gardenhire elected to let left-handed hitting Christin Stewart bat against the left-hander.
Thielbar struck him out on three pitches. Stewart didn't swing at any of them.
"His numbers were good against him, we liked the match-up," Gardenhire said. "But he didn't swing. You're not going to get a hit if you don't swing."
The Tigers had runners on first and third with one out in the fifth, too. But Thielbar got Candelario to pop to first and Castro to hit into a force.
Still, the Tigers were three outs away from gaining a split and maintaining a .500 record when they summoned closer lefty Gregory Soto in the top of the seventh. Those outs never came.
"Soto didn't have it today," Gardenhire said. "We had it set up the way we wanted it, but with Soto we know there is a possibility he can misfire. But we count on him. He's got a big arm and we count on him to be able to get those outs."
Soto walked the first two hitters in the top of the seventh — kiss of death.
Jorge Polanco, who ended up with four hits on the day, then lined a fastball into right-center tying the game 2-2. Catcher Grayson Greiner appeared to call for a slider on the 2-2 pitch. Soto shook him off and threw a 97-mph sinker — Polanco put the barrel on it.
Day over for Soto. But Jose Cisnero had his back.
With runners at first and third and no outs, Cisnero struck out Miguel Sano and Nelson Cruz. He fell behind 3-1 to Cruz, then got him to swing and miss at first a slider and then a 97-mph heater.
Huge effort, especially from a pitcher Gardenhire was trying to stay away from.
"He's got a sore hamstring," Gardenhire said. "When he started to warm up (earlier in the game) he said he didn't feel good, so we weren't going to use him. But we had to. And he said he was fine to pitch."
Like Gardenhire said, the Tigers pitched well enough to win both games. Tyler Alexander, making a spot start after throwing 49 pitches five days earlier, scattered seven hits, but limited the damage to a single run with four strikeouts and no walks.
"I wouldn't say we are frustrated," Alexander said. "We fought hard. It's not like we made a bunch of mental mistakes and gave it away. It's just the game of baseball."