Detroit — Hard to believe this is the same team that just 10 days ago limped into Cleveland dragging a nine-game losing streak.
After sweeping the Twins out of Comerica Park with a 3-2 win Sunday, the Tigers have won five straight, taken three straight series and have climbed their way back to .500 (16-16) going 7-2 since snapping the skid.
This one was more gritty than pretty.
They had to scratch and claw against right-hander Kenta Maeda, who came in with a 4-0 record and a 2.21 ERA and was giving them fits with his stop-and-start delivery and multi-directional change-up and slider.
But they made the most of the few hits they got. Two of them were home runs — a 406-footer to right by Jeimer Candelario that tied the game 2-2 in the fourth, and a hooking liner inside the foul pole in left by Jonathan Schoop that broke the tie in the sixth.
Candelario hit slider, which is significant. He was 3 for 32 against breaking balls before that at-bat. It was his fourth home of the season.
Schoop, who leads the Tigers with eight home runs, hit a sinker.
The other run off Maeda came in the first — a lead-off triple by Victor Reyes and an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera. R eyes extended his hitting streak to nine games and for Cabrera, it was his 2,000th hit as a Tiger. He’s one of eight players to achieve 2,000 hits in a Tigers’ uniform.
But the heavy lifting, again, was done by the Tigers’ bullpen. Specifically, by lefty Tyler Alexander. He relieved rookie Casey Mize, who lasted three innings, and shut down a potent Twins lineup for 3.2 innings.
He retired 11 of the 13 batters he faced, allowing just two singles.
He was at 49 pitches after a two-single by Jorge Polanco. Manager Ron Gardenhire, who vowed before the game to use Joe Jimenez, who had lost the closer role and pitched just 3.2 innings since Aug. 9. He summoned him to face slugging Nelson Cruz.
Jimenez struck Cruz out, getting him to chase two sliders.
Buck Farmer pitched a clean eighth and for the second game in a row, Gregory Soto was summoned to close it out.
Which he did with less drama this time. He gave up a two-out single but nothing else, finishing up six scoreless innings by the Tigers’ bullpen.
Mize will have better days. And the truth is, he will have worse days, too.
The No. 1 overall pick from 2018, made his third big-league start and lasted just three innings. With a pair of walks, three hit-batsman and five three-ball counts, it took him 67 pitches to record nine outs.
Still, the damage ended up being minimal: two runs. One scored on a wild pitch, one of three split-fingered fastballs he spiked on the day. The other was towering home run to right field by Polanco, who clobbered a 2-1 fastball.
Mize yielded just two hits and struck out four. It wasn’t all bad, but it’s a far less than he expects from himself. But his normally spot-on command failed him. He fell behind nine of the 15 batters he faced and had a 58 percent strike rate.
He threw 46 fastballs (32 four-seamers) and just nine splitters. He got one swing-and-miss with the splitter.