The Tigers completed a short, quick, and ultimately, somewhat successful Thursday in St. Louis.
Jordan Zimmermann pitched well in his season debut, then red-hot Jeimer Candelario sparked seventh-inning rally with a two-run single, and Jorge Bonifacio added a two-run home run, as the Tigers rallied for a stunning 6-3 victory.
The Tigers dropped the opener of the make-up doubleheader – both games are seven innings this season – Thursday, 12-2.
This was the third win the last 10 games for the Tigers (20-23), who badly needed a victory after two consecutive lopsided losses.
“We had some kids, young players, stepping up in situations and we needed that,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They were hooting and hollering on the bench. We got great at bats in that situation, and that’s huge. We’ve been beaten up pretty good the last two games, so that was a real nice performance by our guys.”
Candelario continued his torrid hitting with his seventh home run, a solo shot, cutting the Cardinals’ lead to 3-1 in the sixth inning.
But it was Candelario’s heroics in the seventh that got the Tigers the much-needed win.
Sergio Alcantara walked to open the seventh inning and Victor Reyes singled, his third hit of the game.
Jonathan Schoop’s RBI single cut the lead to 3-2, with Reyes advancing to third on a wild throw.
After reliever Ryan Helsley intentionally walked Miguel Cabrera to load the bases with no outs, Candelario muscled a single to center, scoring two runs, and giving the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
It was Candelario’s fifth hit of the doubleheader – two home runs, two singles, one double.
“He’s hotter than a firecracker, it’s fun to watch when guys are like that,” Gardenhire said. “He seems to be seeing every pitch. He’s barreling up a lot of baseballs. We need that right now.”
After Willi Castro lined into a double play, Bonifacio provided key add on runs with a two-run home run.
Jose Cisnero didn’t allow run over 1 1/3 innings to gain the victory, while Bryan Garcia got the save.
Zimmermann did all he could to keep the Tigers close, with a gutsy effort.
The veteran right-hander, making his season debut after dealing with a right forearm strain, went three innings (throwing 42 pitches), but allowing no earned runs and four hits, with one walk and two strikeouts.
“I was anxious to get out there and start facing some big league hitters,” Zimmermann said. “I felt good. When I first found out about the injury, I knew it was going to be a long road, an up hill battle just to get back. I went down to Toledo and started doing the rehab process and it went really smooth.”
Zimmermann was intent on returning this season, despite the injury.
“I’m not a quitter by any means,” Zimmermann said. “I’d do everything I can to help this team win and never in my mind was I thinking to shut it down and get ready for next season. I was always thinking about one day at a time and do everything I can to get back and help the team win.”
Gardenhire was pleased for Zimmermann in what was an emotional outing.
“I can imagine he’s as happy as he’s been in baseball in a while,” Gardenhire said. “To get out there and stay healthy and get through those innings, with everything he’s been through.”
The Cardinals scored a run off Zimmermann in the second inning, but it was unearned. Paul DeJong singled, Tyler O’Neill reached on a Sergio Alcantara error, and Matt Carpenter singled in DeJong.
The Tigers have had trouble scoring runs but appeared to be in prime position in the fourth inning.
Candelario opened the inning with a walk, and singles from Castro and Bonifacio loaded the bases.
But reliever Alex Reyes got Daz Cameron to pop out, struck out Grayson Greiner, and Alcantara lined to third base, ending the threat.
The Cardinals added runs off reliever Tyler Alexander with in the third inning, and a Tommy Edman home run in the fifth.