Minneapolis – There’s no solace to be taken from this one and the Tigers weren’t looking for any.
They dramatically, improbably, tied the game in the top of the ninth. They survived a sudden-death ending in the bottom of the ninth. But at the end of it all, it was the Twins celebrating a walk-off, 6-5 win at Target Field Monday night.
“It’s a tough loss because we were in a position to win and really did fight back,” manager AJ Hinch said. “But we got into the pressure point of the 10th inning and with their pitcher running they end up getting a two-out hit.
“It’s tough any time you lose in extra innings, but walk-offs suck.”
It was the eighth road loss in a row for the Tigers and their eighth loss in a row in Minnesota. That’s the longest drought against the Twins since they lost eight straight at the old Metrodome from May 6, 2002, through Aug. 1, 2003. They are 1-13 at Target Field since Aug. 24, 2019.
“We have an opportunity to win every night,” said catcher Eric Haase who hit his 16th home run of the year. “And we keep giving ourselves opportunities to win.”
The Tigers looked dead in the water, down 5-3 entering the top of the ninth inning and facing Twins lefty All-Star closer Taylor Rogers.
Rogers, though, lasted only five pitches. The fifth one sailed to the backstop and Rogers immediately looked at his left hand as if it went numb. He was immediately pulled from the game.
The Twins announced he had sprained his left middle finger.
Right-hander Alex Colome replaced him, inheriting a full count on Jeimer Candelario. Candelario singled and with one out, Robbie Grossman, pinch-hitting for Harold Castro, lofted a first-pitch cutter into the seats in right.
“You hate to see that happen and I hope Rogers is OK,” Hinch said. “But that was a big swing by Robbie. We were able to capitalize and tie the game.”
Grossman’s 16th home run of the year turned out to be the Tigers’ last gasp.
Hinch had used Jose Cisnero earlier in the game and wanted to stay away from Kyle Funkhouser, who threw 30 pitches on Saturday. So he turned to lefty Gregory Soto, who ended up throwing 42 pitches over two innings.
“Gregory can go as long as we need him to go,” Hinch said.
Soto walked the bases loaded with two outs in a 26-pitch ninth inning. But he struck out pinch-hitter Willians Astudillo to send the game to the 10th.
The Tigers failed to move the free runner in the top of the 10th and Soto was back out there with the Twins starting the inning with Tuesday’s starting pitcher Kenta Maeda on second base as the free runner.
With two outs, Soto and the rest of the Tigers thought he’d struck out No. 9 hitter Andrelton Simmons with a 2-2 sinker at 100 mph. Replays showed the pitch was borderline, a 50-50 call.
“With the left-hander, Soto’s ball was back to the plate,” Haase said. “He made an excellent pitch. I thought it was no doubt a strike and it wasn’t. We had to turn over their lineup and we didn’t want to do that.
“He executed a pitch and it wasn’t called.”
Next up was lead-off hitter Max Kepler, who bats left-handed. He lined an 0-1 sinker into right-center, bringing Maeda home with the winning run.
“Very frustrating,” Haase said. “The bullpen guys have been working their tails off and to lose like this is very frustrating. They felt and I felt they were executing pitches and weren’t getting a lot of calls.”
The Tigers fell into a 5-2 hole in the sixth.
Rookie Matt Manning had soldiered through five innings and took the mound in the sixth with a fresh start after Miguel Cabrera’s two-run home run in the top of the sixth tied the game.
It was Cabrera’s 465th career home run.
The tie lasted two pitches. The second pitch from Manning to rookie Brent Rooker was a curveball that hung juicily over the heart of the plate. Rooker sent it 460 feet into the third deck in left.
Manning walked the next hitter and was done for the night.
Cisnero, entering the game earlier than usual, was greeted rudely by Josh Donaldson. He blasted a slider 446 feet just to the left of the Delta Sky360 Suite in dead center. It was the first home run Cisnero has allowed since May 4.
“I wanted Cisnero in the middle of that order to protect Matt a little bit,” Hinch said. “I wanted a right-hander with all the right-handed thunder. Manning took a step forward tonight, emotionally and performance-wise. It just didn’t end well.”