Tigers' bats go silent with only two hits in 5-0 loss to Twins
Minneapolis — Max Kepler apparently didn’t get the memo about how the baseball isn’t flying in the cool air this season.
The Twins’ right fielder continued his assault on Detroit pitching Wednesday night, hitting a pair of solo home runs as the Tigers dropped their fourth straight, 5-0.
"We have not done a good job of sequencing pitches against him," manager AJ Hinch said.
Kepler, who doubled, homered and knocked in three in the Twins’ 5-4 victory Tuesday, blasted two 400-plus foot homers off Tigers starter and former Twin Michael Pineda.
He hit an 88-mph, four-seam fastball 401 feet into the seats in left-center in the second inning. Then in the fourth, he obliterated an 85-mph change-up. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 108 mph and it traveled 423 feet to right-center. The ball was hit so hard, it stuck in the ribbon board at the base of the second deck.
"I tried to execute my pitches but I missed a couple of fastballs and one change-up and that was the game," Pineda said. "I threw the ball really good, just missed my location for three pitches and I have to pay the damage."
Pineda, who was celebrating 10 years of big league service time, gave up a third home run before he finished his five innings. The third was another bullet, a two-run shot to left-center by catcher Ryan Jeffers. The ball sizzled off his bat at 111 mph.
"That is a big thing for me," Pineda said of hitting the 10-year mark. "I've been through a lot in my career. Today is a special day. But for me, I feel a little sad because we lost. I grinded on the mound today trying to hold the game and keep it close.
"But I feel sad because we lost."
The Twins have now won six in a row and have beaten the Tigers 17 of their last 21 games at Target Field.
The Tigers, conversely, are reeling. Not only have they lost seven of nine and fallen five games under .500, but the offense continues to sputter.
"We're trying to create some opportunities," Hinch said. "Obviously we're not doing enough of that. They swung the bat very well. Their defense was very good. They just outplayed us.
"We only had three base runners tonight. Not having any opportunities to punch back is the toughest part of the night."
Twins rookie starter Joe Ryan shut them out over seven innings Wednesday, allowing only a single by Miguel Cabrera (3,003) and a walk. He allowed no Tigers runner into scoring position and he struck out nine. Robbie Grossman had the other Detroit hit with a double in the ninth inning.
"We see how he's changed a little this year," Hinch said. "He's using his secondary pitches more. He's a good young pitcher. He knows what he's doing and he has weapons. He didn't even use his curveball much tonight."
Ryan continued a trend of starting pitchers locking the Tigers down: Chris Paddack, Twins (one run, 5.2 innings), Chad Kuhl, Rockies (one run, 6 innings), Austin Gomber, Rockies (no runs, 6 innings), Jordan Montgomery, Yankees (one run, 6 innings), Luis Severino, Yankees (one run, 5 innings).
Over the last 11 games, a big chunk of the Tigers’ offense has been dormant:
►Jeimer Candelario – 6 for 43, 14 strikeouts.
►Jonathan Schoop – 5 for 42.
►Akil Baddoo – 4 for 32, 10 strikeouts
►Eric Haase – 4 for 30.
"It's more individualized," Hinch said. "Collectively, when you don't hit you want to look for a theme. But each guy is battling something different. We have to get our guys jump-started to have a better offense."
Lefty reliever Andrew Chafin, who signed a two-year, $13 million deal with the Tigers in March, made his debut, allowing a run and two hits in the seventh inning. The first two hitters he faced – Trevor Larnach and Jeffers – both doubled on balls that left the bat at 107 mph.
But Chafin got the next three outs, including a strikeout of Byron Buxton with Jeffers at third and one out.