For the first time in nearly a month, the Detroit Tigers have logged two wins in a single week. The Tigers used a five-run seventh inning to cruise past the Minnesota Twins on Saturday afternoon with a 7-3 victory at Comerica Park. The win was their 10th on the year, making them the last team in baseball to finally hit the double digit win mark.
The Tigers kicked off the scoring in the first inning, when Robbie Grossman took Twins starter José Berríos deep for a solo home run, his second of the year. Things looked promising when a single and a walk put two runners aboard with still no outs, but Harold Castro ran the Tigers out of the inning on a boneheaded play. Miguel Cabrera hit a sharp liner that was snagged on a lunge by first baseman Miguel Sanó, and Castro, still running toward third and not watching the play, was easily doubled off even after a wide throw.
After failing to plate a run when they had a runner on base with one out in the third, the Tigers doubled their lead in the fourth. Nomar Mazara, fresh off the injured list Saturday afternoon, tripled to lead off the inning, then scored on a hustle double from Niko Goodrum to make it 2-0 Detroit.
Unfortunately, that margin was short-lived. José Ureña, who had been dancing out of trouble all game long, was tagged for five hits in the fifth to end his day. Only the first two, punctuated by a Josh Donaldson home run, came around to score, tying the game. But with the Twins threatening to break the game open, Michael Fulmer was able to strand the bases loaded after coming in out of the bullpen.
While that final inning made things a little uglier on Ureña’s stat line, this performance was a far cry from the efficient games he had in his previous four starts. It took him 94 pitches to get through 4 1⁄3 innings, and he threw just 53 strikes. He walked two hitters while recording just three strikeouts, and had to work out of multiple jams even before finally giving up runs in the fifth.
The Tigers ran themselves out of another scoring opportunity in the bottom of the fifth, when Grossman found himself in no-man’s land between third base and home plate when tagging on a shallow fly ball. He made up for the gaffe, first with a sliding catch to end a bases loaded threat by the Twins in the top of the seventh, then with another hit in the bottom of the frame that turned into the go-ahead run.
After Grossman singled to lead off the seventh, Harold Castro followed with a hit of his own. Both runners moved up on a groundout, then Grossman scampered home on an infield single from Cabrera to make the score 3-2. Jonathan Schoop followed with a walk to load the bases, and Goodrum blooped a single into center field to score two more runs. Willi Castro gave Twins reliever Derek Law a battle, and drew a walk after falling behind in a 1-2 count, and the mustachioed Jake Rogers punched another two-run single into left, extending the lead to 7-2.
Thankfully, that would be all of the late inning drama in this one. Alex Lange gave up a run in the top of the eighth, but struck out Nelson Cruz and Jorge Polanco to prevent further damage. Gregory Soto got himself into some trouble with a couple of walks in the ninth, but Max Kepler grounded out softly to end the game.
- We haven’t done Player of the Game voting in a while, but this one would be a toss-up between Fulmer and Grossman. Fulmer was huge for the Tigers out of the bullpen in this one, stranding the bases loaded in the fifth before tossing two more scoreless frames to bridge the gap to the late innings.
- Meanwhile, Grossman made up for his minor baserunning error by reaching base five times and scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh. His big day brought his batting average up nearly 20 points, and pushed his on-base percentage north of .380.
- José Ureña was not quite as impressive. I have been the low man on Ureña for most of the year, even during his recent run of success. He has had a couple of excellent starts with plenty of strikeouts, but overall is fanning just 18 percent of the batters he has faced. Most will cringe when I say this, but his early starts feel eerily similar to those of Alfredo Simon’s in 2015.
- I’m not sure what has gotten into Niko Goodrum lately, but he was hitting .316/.381/.474 in a handful of plate appearances against right-handed pitchers coming into this game, and added two more hits and a pair of walks. This is probably just a mirage, as he has a career .665 OPS against righties, but it’s fun for now.
- Miguel Cabrera hit tracker: 2,876. He is now 124 hits away from 3,000.