With the bases loaded in the second inning, Minnesota Twins slugger Nelson Cruz assumed he hit his 10th career grand slam. Right-hander Jose Urena, starting for the Detroit Tigers, left a 94.3 mph fastball down the middle.
An umpire review determined the baseball went just foul of the right-field pole.
On the next pitch, the 40-year-old Cruz crushed a grand slam near the Tigers’ bullpen beyond the left-field fence. He got ahold of an 84.1 mph slider, barked at first baseman Jonathan Schoop — teammates in 2014 and 2019 — while trotting around the bases and gifted the Twins a 6-0 lead.
The Tigers (2-2) got annihilated by the Twins in the first of three-game series, losing 15-6 Monday at Comerica Park. Minnesota picked up 14 hits and 11 walks, forcing AJ Hinch to use utility player Harold Castro as a pitcher for the ninth inning.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Tigers collected four of their eight hits and five of their six runs, as well as their only walk. Rookie Akil Baddoo, a Rule 5 draft pick, launched a grand slam with two outs. He has two homers in his first two MLB games.
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The Tigers used six pitchers; four of them allowed damage: Urena (six runs, five earned), right-hander Buck Farmer (three runs), left-hander Derek Holland (four runs), Bryan Garcia (two runs), Gregory Soto (zero runs) and Castro (zero runs).
The Tigers take on the Twins at 1:10 p.m. Tuesday in the second of three games. Right-hander Casey Mize is starting, opposed by Twins left-hander J.A. Happ.
Urena’s poor debut
Urena carried at 4.60 ERA when he inked a one-year, $3.25 million contract in the offseason. The front office thought Urena could help the team eat innings after COVID-19 shortened the 2020 season to 60 games, leaving uncertainties about the durability of young pitchers.
Making his Tigers debut Monday, Urena allowed six runs (five earned) on four hits and four walks. He struck out five batters. He used 81 pitches and threw a mere 39 strikes. And he got 13 swings-and-misses, including seven with his sinker and five with his slider.
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On the other end, Twins starter Matt Shoemaker (Trenton, Eastern Michigan) tossed six innings of one-run ball. He gave up three hits but didn’t issue a walk. He got five strikeouts with his 95 pitches, of which 65 went for strikes.
Cruz wrecks Tigers
After Cruz’s second-inning slam, he added his second homer of the game against Farmer. In a 3-1 count, Farmer tossed a 92.4 mph fastball — Cruz sent it 418 feet to left field at 116.6 mph off the bat.
Cruz’s grand slam had an exit velocity of 114.6 mph. His second homer gave the Twins a 7-0 lead, which they extended to 11-0 with a five-run fifth inning. Andrelton Simmons hit a two-run single; Willians Astudillo brought home two more runs with a double.
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Cruz also doubled to the left-field corner in the top of the sixth against Holland and scored for a 12-1 lead when the next batter, Max Kepler, doubled to the right-field corner.
This isn’t the first time Cruz has done damage against the Tigers. He is a career .300 hitter (122-for-406) against them, with 25 home runs and 75 RBIs in 108 games. And at Comerica Park? When Cruz enters the ballpark in Detroit, he boasts a .330 batting average (75-for-227), 19 homers and 50 RBIs in 57 games.
Even at age 40, Cruz isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
Catcher Wilson Ramos had his worst game defensively — dropping numerous pitches and watching an already wild throw from Nomar Mazara bounce past him in the first inning — but he managed to break up Shoemaker’s no-hitter in the fifth inning with a homer to left field. Victor Reyes homered in the ninth inning for his team’s second run.
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Lefty Gregory Soto gave up a walk and single but got two strikeouts in a scoreless eighth inning.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.