Detroit Tigers rookie Spencer Torkelson hit a grounder between first and second base with two outs in the seventh inning. Minnesota Twins first baseman Jose Miranda tracked down the ball, but his throw from him to relief pitcher Joe Smith, running to cover first base, resulted in an error.
The Tigers scored two runs with two outs in the seventh, all thanks to that error, to help produce a 7-5 win over the Twins in Monday’s five-game series opener in front of 15,191 fans at Comerica Park on Memorial Day.
“I think we had all the feeling of like, we’re going to win this game, that entire game,” Torkelson said. “They would score, and we weren’t too worried about it. We were going to go out there, put good at-bats together and drive guys in. Just a really good team win.”
Detroit improved to 18-29 with four wins in their past five games, now 10 games behind Minnesota for first place in the American League Central. The Tigers scored at least seven runs for the first time since April 23 and for the third time in 47 games this season.
“There was a lot to like today,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We could have been better, obviously, but it’s always nice to kickstart a long series against a team with a win.”
On Miranda’s throwing error, Jeimer Candelario scored from second base for a 5-4 advantage, while Torkelson easily advanced to second base. Willi Castro’s ensuing single scored Torkelson to go ahead 6-4.
Before scoring, Candelario reached second base on a fielder’s choice, as the Twins cut down Jonathan Schoop — who tripled for the first time this year — in a rundown between third base and home plate for the second out.
“He had one of the better plays that nobody will talk about,” Hinch said, “staying in that rundown and allowing Candelario to get a second.”
The Twins scored eleven in the eighth inning on Gio Urshela’s RBI double, but the Tigers countered with an infield single from Javier Báez in the bottom-half of the frame. On Báez single, Urshela committed a throwing error that allowed the Tigers to post their seventh run.
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Closer Gregory Soto pitched a scoreless ninth to secure a two-run victory and his ninth save this season.
The Tigers scored six runs on 13 hits and two walks with seven strikeouts against three pitchers. Twins right-hander Dylan Bundy, making his eighth start, surrendered four runs in six innings.
Schoop had three hits in five at-bats, propelling him to 1,001 hits in his 10-year career. He became the third player from Curacao with at least 1,000 hits, joining Andruw Jones (1,933) and Andrelton Simmons (1,163).
“We put some good at-bats together, passed the baton and believed in each other,” Schoop said. “We just got to do it consistently, trying to do it day in and day out, and it’s going to be good for us. This team is really good.”
Schoop missed the cycle by a home run, posting a third-inning single, fifth-inning double and seventh-inning triple. He grounded out in the first inning and struck out swinging in the eighth.
“I was aware of it,” Schoop said. “Miggy (Miguel Cabrera) told me, too, so I was trying to go for it.”
Schoop and Torkelson notched three hits, while a trio of players had two-hit performances: Candelario, Castro and Derek Hill. Baez, hitting .195, finished 1-for-5 with one strikeout.
Offense waking up?
The Tigers scored their first run in the third inning, thanks to an unlikely source of power. Hill, for his speed and defense of him, slapped Bundy’s slider for a 355-foot solo home run, good for his first homer this season and the fourth homer in his 88-game career.
But the Tigers weren’t done.
“It was a good day offensively,” Hinch said. “A great collection of at-bats.”
Three Tigers reached safely to open the fourth: Candelario (single), Torkelson (double) and Castro (single).
Torkelson’s double — hit with a 109.5 mph exit velocity — to the left-center gap scored Candelario and cut the Tigers’ deficit to 3-2. Castro knotted the score by driving in Torkelson with a single—hit with an 88.3 mph exit velocity—up the middle and into center field.
The Tigers added to their run total in the fifth, thus completing three straight innings with at least one run scored.
After Báez strikeout for the second out, Candelario dropped in a bloop single to score Schoop, who reached on a one-out double, and put the Tigers ahead, 4-3. Torkelson continued the attack with his second hit of the game, putting runners on the corners. Willi Castro popped out to third base, unable to extend the lead.
Put a Beau on it
Through the first two innings, Brieske threw 30 pitches: 15 balls, 15 strikes. He improved his strike-throwing the rest of the way, finishing with 57 strikes on 91 pitches in 5⅔ innings.
A nine-pitch fifth inning saved Brieske from an earlier exit. The Tigers, with a doubleheader Tuesday, needed Brieske to eat up as many innings as possible, and he battled to pitch into the sixth.
Still, the Twins tagged Brieske for four runs.
“This wasn’t Beau’s best,” Hinch said. “He did make an adjustment with his breaking ball. His breaking ball early was bad, where he couldn’t really locate it. Once he started spinning it in the zone, it gave him a chance and got them off his fastball.”
In the second inning, Gary Sanchez opened the scoring with a solo home run on Brieske’s second-pitch center-cut fastball. The Twins then put two runners in scoring position with two outs, but Brieske escaped the second without further damage.
Brieske stayed calm in the third inning, striking out the first two batters he faced: Luis Arraez (slider) and Kyle Garlick (changeup). Arraez’s swinging strikeout marked Brieske’s first swing-and-miss of the game.
A routine two-out grounder from Jorge Polanco to Schoop resulted in a single, as the second baseman took too much time throwing Torkelson at first base. But Brieske retired the next batter to conclude the third.
The Twins tackled on two more runs in the fourth inning on one swing from Jose Miranda, who hammered Brieske’s hanging curveball 372 feet and beyond the left-field wall for a two-run home run.
Brieske sat down seven batters in a row before a mistake cost him with two outs in the sixth inning. His final pitch from him, a full-count changeup to Urshela, traveled to left-center field for a solo home run to tie the game.
“One secondary pitch at the end cost him,” Hinch said. “Tucker (Barnhart, catcher) didn’t really want to go to it, but Beau really wanted it, and Urshela hits the ball out of the ballpark. It somewhat ruined the day, but we’re still in the game at that point because Beau was able to make an adjustment.”
Hinch removed Brieske from his start, as right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez entered. Jimenez needed two pitches to retire Miranda for the third out in the sixth inning.
Next up: Twins
Match-up: Tigers (18-29) vs. Minnesota (29-20), split doubleheader.
First pitch: Game 1, 1:10 p.m. Tuesday, Game 2, 7:10 p.m.; Comerica Park, Detroit.
TV/Radio: Bally Sports Detroit; WXYT (97.1).
Likely pitchers: Game 1, Tigers — RHP Rony Garcia (0-0, 3.00 ERA); Twins — LHP Devin Smeltzer (1-0, 1.04); Game 2, Tigers — LHP Joey Wentz (0-1, 8:25 p.m.); Twins—TBA.