Offense sputters as Tigers drop another tight one, 3-2 to Twins

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — It was the best matchup the Tigers could've hoped for in the bottom of the ninth inning Monday. 

After Eric Haase grinded out a nine-pitch at-bat and hustled to beat out an infield single, and Harold Castro did the same, forcing an errant throw from Twins closer Alex Colome, Robbie Grossman strode to the plate with two outs and the tying run on third base. 

Grossman, who was 3 for 7 with two home runs in his career against Colome, got ahead 3-1 and got a juicy cutter in the middle of the plate. And just missed it. 

No. 30 Harold Castro, utility — L-R, 5-10, 200. Age in season: 28

All he does is play anywhere he’s needed — though mostly this year it will be strictly the four infield spots — and play it competently, hit at or close to .300 from the left side of the plate and deliver clutch hits. Last season he hit .325 with two outs and runners in scoring position. He'll even pitch you a scoreless inning every once in a while. Just a very versatile, dependable and useful veteran player.

2021: .283 BA, 83 wRC-plus, 0.5 WAR

2022 salary: $1.28 million

"We definitely have a knack for late-inning heroics," said center fielder Derek Hill after Grossman flew out to right field to end the Tigers' 3-2 loss to the Twins at Comerica Park in the makeup of the rained-out game May 9. "Everybody was up in spirits. It's just a shame we couldn't come through there."

BOXSCORE: Twins 3, Tigers 2

It was the Tigers' sixth straight one-run game, the most consecutive one-run games they've played since 1971. And they are 2-4 in this current stretch.

"In a close game you are going to look at every small mistake, whether it's a walk or a bad alignment, bad baserunning — it all contributes when it's a close game," manager AJ Hinch said. 

Look no further than the bottom of the seventh inning. Aggressive, pressure-applying baseball can be a double-edged sword, especially if your team is struggling to string hits and score runs like the Tigers have, averaging just over two runs a game over their last nine. 

Harold Castro, trying valiantly to get into scoring position, was thrown out at third base with one out. He was trying to advance from first on an infield single by Victor Reyes. 

"I didn't see it," Hinch said. "I thought the play was over, like a lot of people, and I was writing something down. I heard the crowd, looked up and Harold was trying to go to third. I need to talk to Harold and look at the play closer."

First baseman Miguel Sano had trouble both catching the throw and picking the ball up. Castro had come to a full stop at second, but when he saw Sano drop the ball again, he broke for third. 

Sano, who has a strong arm, threw Castro out — extinguishing the Tigers' best threat to tie the game until the ninth.

"One thing about this team, from top to bottom, it's a team of fighters," Hinch said. "These guys play the whole game." 

It looked like the Twins couldn’t wait to get out of here Monday. Couldn’t much blame them. They had to give up an off-day in the middle of homestand and fly to Detroit for a makeup game. And they were swinging early and often against Tigers starter Casey Mize, as if the plane home was already gassed and ready.

"They were swinging a lot, which plays into my advantage," Mize said. "But you have to be careful. They can do damage like that, as well. But we were able to get some quick outs."

But after 10 straight outs, four of them on one pitch, the Twins decided to lock in for a bit. 

With one out in the fourth, they worked three straight three-ball counts against Mize: Byron Buxton doubled, Jorge Polanco singled (RBI) and Josh Donaldson launched a 436-foot home run into the shrubs in center field.

"In the fourth I just got behind hitters," Mize said. "It went from really quick at-bats to too long of at-bats with disadvantaged counts, which made it tough. 

Mize just missed the outside corner with a 2-2 slider to Donaldson. He came back with a 95-mph two-seamer and Donaldson destroyed it.  

"I was sinker-slider, that's what I was doing pretty much the whole game," Mize said. "I was expanding the plate with the slider and coming back with the sinker. I was trying to go in and get him to put the ball on the ground and get a double play. I just got way too much of the plate."

 Mize threw more pitches in the fourth (30) than he did in the first three innings combined (29). And just like that, the Twins were up 3-1. And they went back to hunting early strikes. Mize blew through the fifth on five pitches.

"That three-batter stretch ended up being the difference in the game," Mize said. "I hate that I wasn't able to limit that." 

Still, it was a quality start for Mize. He finished with four strikeouts and got 11 swings and misses on 41 swings, with 10 called strikes over six innings.   

The Tigers offense, though, fighting to string hits together the last couple of weeks, couldn’t dent Twins right-hander Bailey Ober over the first six innings.  

Hill, who made a terrific play running down Nick Gordon’s 400-foot fly ball at the wall in center in the third inning, had a pair of hits including his second career home run.

Castro, also with two hits, led off the fifth with a double and scored on a bloop, two-strike single by Zack Short to make a 3-2 game.

But that was it.

Scary moment in the top of the ninth. Tigers reliever Miguel Del Pozo, just recalled from Toledo on Monday morning, was hit in the chin by a line drive that left Max Kepler's bat with an exit velocity of 95 mph. 

He was bleeding, but he walked off the field with trainer Doug Teter and Hinch. 

"He's doing OK," Hinch said afterward. "He was pretty shaken up and there was blood all over the mound and his jersey. He's got a laceration on his chin and he's getting stitched up.

"I'm sure there will be concussion tests and others, but he was alert. Hopefully it's just stitches. It could've been a lot worse."

Twitter: @cmccosky