Tigers get walked off against Twins in extras, drop 5-4 heartbreaker
Minneapolis – Good ballgame here Tuesday night at Target Field. Fun, tightly-managed, hotly-contested – if you didn't have access to the standings, you'd have thought both teams were battling for a playoff spot.
In the end, the Twins were the ones celebrating a 5-4, walk-off win in the 10th.
"It's a tough loss," Tigers interim manager Lloyd McClendon said after. "But the one thing I explained to the club, nobody feels sorry for you. You've got to grind it out and you've got to turn the page.
"Think about it, figure out what happened and then turn the page and get ready for tomorrow because that tough team over there is going to be back out here trying to beat you again."
The game went to extra innings tied 3-3 and the Tigers drew first blood – Jeimer Candelario snapped an 0-for-16 skid with a sharp single to left, scoring Victor Reyes from third.
The Twins came right back, tied it in the bottom of the 10th when Eddie Rosario, the first batter closer Bryan Garcia faced with the courtesy runner at second, singled.
Rosario stole second and with two outs, Max Kepler flipped a blooper into shallow left. Rosario scored without a throw. Ballgame.
"We played well," McClendon said. "A lot of good things happened and some things that weren't so good happened. We will correct them and move on."
The fight level was high and going into the eighth inning, the Tigers were set-up to put a crimp in the Twins' playoff march.
After squandering scoring chances in the fourth and fifth innings, the Tigers tied the game 2-2 in the sixth inning on a gift from the Twins. Reliever Trevor May walked the bases loaded in the sixth and with two outs, the Twins brought in right-hander Tyler Duffey to face Austin Romine.
Romine hit a ball that caromed off Duffey. Duffey retrieved it and had time to get the out, but first baseman Miguel Sano stretched too quickly and dropped the throw.
They absolutely earned the go-ahead run in the top of the seventh. Daz Cameron hit his second double of the night, a laser to the gap in right-center. He scored without a throw on a line drive single to right by Willi Castro.
And McClendon would have made old Captain Hook (Sparky Anderson) proud the way he used the Tigers' bullpen – almost like it was win-or-go home. He used late-inning reliever Jose Cisnero to get a crucial out in the fourth inning. He went to lefty Daniel Norris to get a left-handed hitting Max Kepler out with two on in the fifth.
"The traditional way of thinking on how to use your bullpen is gone," McClendon said. "You have to manage the innings, inning by inning and what inning is most important to keep you in the ballgame.
"I thought in that situation (in the fourth), bringing Cisnero in with the numbers he had and the match-up there was the right thing to do."
Norris was able to get four outs and Joe Jimenez worked a scoreless sixth – getting his nemesis, Miguel Sano, to fly out to the wall in left – which set up Buck Farmer, Gregory Soto and Bryan Garcia, who took the loss, to work the last three innings.
The only flaw in the plan was a game-tying home run by Kepler in the eighth. Farmer had him 2-2 and threw a slider down in the zone. Kepler went down and hoisted it over the right-field wall.
Oh, but for the squandered chances.
When the Tigers become playoff contenders again – legitimate, annual playoff contenders – innings like the top of the fourth Tuesday will be game-changers. As it was, they merely held serve when they might’ve put the Twins away.
They had already tied the game 1-1 on an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera and chased starter Homer Bailey, who had just been activated from the injured list. They had the bases loaded and no outs and Brandon Dixon, in his first game of the season, was hitting against right-handed reliever Cody Stashak with the Twins infield drawn in.
Instead of a big inning, this happened: Dixon hit a ground ball to shortstop Ehire Adrianza. From his knees, Adrianza threw home to force out Willi Castro. Catcher Mitch Garver then looked up and was surprised to see Cabrera not even three-quarters of the way to third base.
He easily threw him out to complete ever rare 6-2-5 double-play.
"We had opportunities but so did that," McClendon said. "It happens. I don't know a hitter that ever went to the plate trying to hit into a double-play with the bases loaded. It's a tough game. There are growing pains that are going to happen with this club.
"We have to talk about it, correct it and get better."
The Twins took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth, Mitch Garver hit a fastball from Tigers rookie starter Tarik Skubal 417 feet into the third deck in left field.
Skubal needed 78 pitches to get through 3.2 innings. Even though he left a bases-loaded mess in the fourth, the only damage against him was two solo homers – Byron Buxton led off the game with a line-drive home run down the left field line.
It was the sixth time Tigers pitchers have given up a home run to the first batter of a game.
Cisnero cleaned up Skubal’s mess in the fourth, striking out Buxton on three 96-mph fastballs.
The Tigers had a chance to build on that momentum in the top of the fifth, too. With two outs, Cameron hit a missile (exit velocity of 104 mph) off the base of the wall in center for a double. Victor Reyes followed with a hard-hit single to left.
Left-fielder Rosario, who had four outfield assists on the season at that point, charged hard and threw a strike to home plate. Cameron may not have been safe regardless, but when he started trying to keep his helmet from flying off his head as he rounded third. It was no contest at the plate.
"Every road trip, every time I get on base my helmet falls off," Cameron said. "Every single time. I have the right size but it's still just big enough to where it falls off every time I run."
He said next time he's just going to let it fly off.
"Oh for sure," he said. "I got around third and I felt it shaking on my head. It was one of those things where I slid and I got to home plate and Rosario threw me out and I just smiled. I was like, 'Man, my helmet was bobbing everywhere.'"