Belting a first-inning 404-foot home run to right field put the Detroit Tigers ahead early against the Minnesota Twins, but veteran outfielder Robbie Grossman did his best work in the seventh inning.
Grossman singled and scored the go-ahead run to ignite a five-run seventh, helping the Tigers (10-24) to a 7-3 victory Saturday at Comerica Park. Niko Goodrum and Jake Rogers — in his first game this season — chipped in a pair of two-run singles to cushion the lead.
Detroit has a 2-2 record in the past four games and a 4-18 record in the past 22 games. Against the Twins on Saturday, the Tigers went 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position. They had 12 hits, nine walks and just three strikeouts.
“When we have action (on the bases), we’re a different team,” manager AJ Hinch said. “The ball in play was pretty good. The activity on the bases, first to third, two-strike hitting. It just creates a much different look to an offense.”
Miguel Cabrera, who went 2-for-4 with one walk, drove in Grossman for the first run in the seventh with a hard-hit infield single to third baseman Josh Donaldson, who dropped the ball on his transfer. He was trying to throw home.
Grossman finished 3-for-3 with one walk and one hit-by-pitch, along with a sliding catch in left field to save a run. Harold Castro had a three-hit performance as well. Goodrum tossed in two hits and two walks, with a game-high three RBIs.
“Look, we’re just trying to put up good at-bats,” Grossman said. “Get guys on and good things will happen when you put the ball in play and give us some more options to score runs. We’ve been putting together some good games with that, and we’re looking to continue to do that.”
The seventh-inning runs were charged to Minnesota relievers Tyler Duffey (four) and Derek Law (one). Starter Jose Berrios allowed two runs on six hits and five walks. He threw 104 pitches.
Detroit wraps up the three-game series at 1:10 p.m. Sunday. Left-hander Matthew Boyd starts after missing his last start with left knee tendinitis. He is opposed by Minnesota righty Kenta Maeda. The Tigers have a day off Monday before a three-game slate with the Kansas City Royals from Tuesday-Thursday.
Urena hit hard
Right-hander Jose Urena started and pitched into the fifth inning. He allowed a two-run home run to Donaldson before loading the bases with one out. At 94 pitches (53 strikes), Hinch replaced him with Michael Fulmer.
Urena went 4⅓ innings. He gave up two runs on nine hits and two walks, with three strikeouts. The Twins put 19 balls in play against him, and 11 had greater than a 99 mph exit velocity. Donaldson’s home run registered a 113.1 mph exit velocity — the hardest hit against Urena.
The average exit velocity against Urena’s sinker was 96.6 mph.
Fulmer needed six pitches to get the next two outs: Miguel Sano popped out to second base, and Ben Rortvedt flied out to right field. He stranded the bases loaded, saved Urena from further damage and kept the game tied.
“Everything happened so fast,” Fulmer said. “It goes from them tying the game there to another guy getting on. I start moving around a little bit just in case, and then the phone rings. Juan (Nieves, assistant pitching coach) said to get hot quick, so that was about the fastest I tried warming up. Everything felt good.”
Urena struggled to command his sinker. He used his primary pitch 51 times but only got one swing-and-miss and eight called strikes. He also tossed 22 sliders, 18 changeups and three four-seam fastballs. His slider generated six whiffs, and his changeup got two more.
Fulmer delivered 2⅔ scoreless innings to get the Tigers through the top of the seventh. He gave up just one hit and one walk, throwing 28 of his 47 pitches for strikes and recording three strikeouts. For Fulmer’s final out, Grossman made a sliding catch in shallow left field to save a run.
“He’s got this adrenaline rush when he pitches,” Hinch said. “He’s very trustable, and I know he’s going to throw strikes. Him being able to lengthen the game was just as key as the first couple of outs he got.
“The game is different if he doesn’t get the first couple of outs, but I don’t know how we get to the finish line with as much as our bullpen has been used if he doesn’t bridge that gap.”
Alex Lange allowed one run in the eighth inning; Gregory Soto loaded the bases in the ninth inning but escaped to complete the four-run win
Returning from injury
In his first game back from a left abdominal strain, outfielder Nomar Mazara went 1-for-4 with one walk and two runs scored. He flied out to left field in the first inning but ripped his eighth career triple to open the fourth inning. Goodrum plated him for a 2-0 lead. Goodrum also got aggressive on the bases, turning what should have been a single into a double.
“We asked him after the game, ‘What took you so long? All we needed was you to come back and be in the middle of our order, and good things happen,'” Hinch said. “He’s a big presence, and it was nice to see him.”
In the fifth, Mazara bounced out to shortstop for the third out to strand runners at first and second. He grounded into a force out in the seventh and took a five-pitch walk in the eighth.
Mazara went to the 10-day injured list April 15. He recently played three games for Triple-A Toledo in a rehabilitation stint before returning to the Tigers. Entering Saturday’s game, Mazara had played 12 games with a .237 batting average and two home runs.
588 days later
Rogers’ last game for the Tigers was Sept. 28, 2019. The 26-year-old, ranked by MLB Pipeline as the team’s No. 14 prospect, struggled offensively and defensively in his first stint in the major leagues.
The catcher spent the 2020 season at the alternate training site and was sent to Triple-A Toledo out of spring training. Rogers made his return to the Tigers’ lineup on Saturday — after 588 days — because starter Wilson Ramos went to the 10-day injured list.
Rogers went 1-for-4 with one strikeout and two RBIs.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.