Tigers outslug Twins, 17-14, to win 'absolutely nuts' series
Minneapolis — They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in the case of the Tigers and Twins, who finished off a set of 10 games in 18 games Wednesday, it’s mostly bred chaos.
Four of the games went extra innings. The Tigers hit ninth-inning, game-tying home runs in three of them and were 1-2 in those games. In the games Monday and Tuesday, games that lasted just under four hours, there were 19 pitching changes.
“I hate the schedule this month, playing the Twins this much,” manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s rare. It’s the first time in my career it’s been this way, so I can’t bash it too much. But I don’t think it is the best brand of baseball for the competition part of it when you play the same team 10 times in a month.”
Then this mess happened in the series finale. The Tigers' 17-14 series-clinching win at a sweltering Target Field on Wednesday was highlighted (or marred, depending on your perspective) by a combined 23-batter, 14-run, 14-hit fourth inning.
The Twins hit four home runs in the eighth inning and had seven in the game, and nearly climbed out of 10-0 and 13-6 holes. The Tigers survived, scoring 17 runs without a home run.
"It wasn't very pretty, but we got a series win with three absolutely nuts games," catcher Grayson Greiner said.
The Tigers hadn't scored 17 runs without a home run since July 23, 1961 — against the long-forgotten Kansas City Athletics.
"An ugly win is better than any loss," Hinch said. "It was a long day, but a productive day. We got a series win at a place where we hadn't won this year."
They hadn't won a series at Target Field since July 2017.
"We're tired of the Twins and they are probably tired of us," Hinch said. "But I am glad the way we regrouped in the second couple of series against them. We swept them at home and had a hard-fought, come-from-behind series win at their place."
The Tigers sent 11 hitters to the plate and scored eight runs in the top of the fourth against Twins lefty starter J.A. Happ. Akil Baddoo doubled in a run. Derek Hill, who had three hits including an RBI bunt single in the second, plated another with an infield single. Jeimer Candelario’s two-run double ended Happ’s day.
Willi Castro greeted former Tiger Beau Burrows with an RBI triple.
They were up 10-0 when starting pitcher Wily Peralta went to the mound in the bottom of the fourth.
"We needed every run today," Greiner said.
The Twins countered with 12 hitters and six runs in the bottom of the fourth, including a grand slam home run by catcher Ryan Jeffers. Three catchers hit grand slams in this series — Eric Haase for the Tigers, Jeffers and Mitch Garver for the Twins.
"Just poor execution," Hinch said. "The ball was flying all over the place and we didn't execute pitches. They just never stopped hitting home runs after that."
It was the fifth time in franchise history, the first since 1997, that the Tigers scored 10 or more runs and allowed six or more in the first four innings of a game.
It turned into a slow-pitch softball game. The Twins hit four more home runs in the eighth, cutting a 13-6 deficit to 13-12.
Max Kepler and Brent Rooker hit back-to-back homers off Buck Farmer to start the eighth, which was his third inning of work. After a walk, Miguel Sano hit the first pitch he saw from Joe Jimenez into the seats. It was his second homer of the game.
After a double by Willians Astudillo, Jeffers hit his second home run of the game, making it a one-run game.
"When you have a 10-run lead, you can get a little greedy trying to get to the finish line without using relievers we wanted to rest (Michael Fulmer, Jose Cisnero, Erasmo Ramirez)," Hinch said. "The Twins didn't allow for that. They decided to hit everybody.
"It was unfair to Buck. I asked him to go a third inning and that's more on me. That's not something he's done this year."
The Twins hadn't hit four home runs in an inning since 1992.
"Just an absolutely wild game," said Greiner, who had two hits, two walks and two RBIs. "Some days the offense is going to be there and a lot of days the pitching staff is going to pick up the offense. Today the offense did a great job."
The clinching blow turned out to be a three-run double in the top of the ninth by Haase. It put the Tigers up 17-12.
Jorge Polanco hit a two-run home run off Gregory Soto before he mercifully closed it out.
"It would have been a gut-wrenching loss because of the way the day started," Hinch said. "Our tack-on runs were key. You want to keep everybody loose, but you don't want to get too comfortable.
"When they talk about when do you stop running and concede that you've got the game won — this game will show you that you should never play that unwritten-rules crap. You should just play the game."
Just to put a cherry on top of this: According to Stathead, no team in American League history — or NL history since 1900 — had allowed seven home runs in a game, gone homerless and still won.