HRs, history guide Tigers to huge sweep

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday morning he was going to get his former closer Joe Jiménez some work. On Sunday, Jiménez went up against Nelson Cruz.
The seventh-inning matchup with the tying run on base was a test for just how much staying power the Tigers’ winning

DETROIT — Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said Sunday morning he was going to get his former closer Joe Jiménez some work. On Sunday, Jiménez went up against Nelson Cruz.

The seventh-inning matchup with the tying run on base was a test for just how much staying power the Tigers’ winning ways have, with their retinkered bullpen-by-committee approach up against their biggest nemesis of the past decade. With back-to-back sliders off the plate drawing back-to-back swings and misses, Jiménez got Cruz to strike out swinging and briefly reprised his closer celebration on the mound.

Box score

He had good reason. Not only had Jiménez exorcised his recent struggles and Tigers’ nightmares from years past, he got the biggest out in a 3-2 win that finished off a three-game series sweep of the reigning American League Central champion Twins. The Tigers’ fifth consecutive win moved them back to .500 for the first time since Aug. 15 and sent them into the final month of the regular season with a chance at one of the eight AL playoff spots this season.

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The Tigers have climbed back into contention by following up a nine-game losing streak with a 7-2 stretch against the Indians, Cubs and Twins, all of whom were at or within a game of their respective division lead entering Sunday. Detroit won three consecutive series for the first time since the summer of 2018, and swept a series from the Twins for the first time in four years.

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In the case of the Twins, the Tigers took three games in just over 24 hours from the Bomba Squad, which was held to two runs in each game. Unlike Saturday’s doubleheader sweep, Detroit didn’t get a strong start Sunday as top pitching prospect Casey Mize battled command issues through three turbulent innings that included three hit batters. But Tyler Alexander’s 3 2/3 scoreless innings set up a solid bullpen effort and supported Jeimer Candelario’s game-tying homer in the fourth inning and Jonathan Schoop’s go-ahead home run against his former team in the sixth.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck’s Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

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