Detroit Tigers take series from Minnesota Twins with wild 17-14 win

Detroit Free Press

It was a come-from-ahead victory the Detroit Lions would have been proud of, not to mention the Detroit Tigers. Detroit withstood a late rally by Minnesota, winning by a field goal in a classic NFC North matchup.

Er, that is, the Tigers won by three runs in a 17-14 slugfest at Target Field in Minneapolis, about a mile away from the Minnesota Vikings’ home field. In all, the Tigers and Minnesota Twins combined for 31 runs on 31 hits and 16 walks — and that was just in Wednesday’s series finale.

“An ugly win is better than any loss,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “Obviously a long day, but a productive day with a series win in a place that we came into this series having not won this year. We needed every ounce of effort from our guys.”

The Tigers (49-55) used an eight-run fourth inning — a product of three singles, two doubles, one triple, two walks and a pair of sacrifice flies — a three-run sixth inning and, finally, a four-run ninth inning to outlast the Twins.

Meanwhile, the Twins scored six runs in both the fourth and eighth innings, nearly mounting a comeback after being down by 10 runs entering the bottom of the fourth.

The Tigers’ lead had shrunk to one by the time Eric Haase came to the plate with two outs in the ninth. His three-run double put the Tigers ahead by four runs; he then scored on Jeimer Candelario’s 26th double of the season for a 17-12 lead. Gregory Soto conceded a two-run homer to Jorge Polanco in the ninth inning — Minnesota’s seventh long ball — but finished the game.

For the first time since July 23, 1961, the Tigers scored 17 runs without a home run.

After winning their first seven games coming out of the All-Star break against the Twins and Texas Rangers at Comerica Park, the Tigers were swept by the Kansas City Royals in three games at Kauffman Stadium. They lost Monday’s series opener to the Twins but bounced back with consecutive victories (thanks to five runs combined from the ninth inning forward on Tuesday night).

Detroit is 40-31 since May 8. 

“Wasn’t always pretty, but we got a series win in three absolutely nuts games,” catcher Grayson Greiner said. “We’re going home with a series win, so it’ll be a happy flight. Ready to get back to work in Detroit.”

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In the fourth, the Tigers sent 11 batters to the plate. The first seven — Harold Castro (single), Greiner (walk), Akil Baddoo (one-run double), Derek Hill (one-run single), Robbie Grossman (one-run single), Haase (walk) and Candelario (two-run double) — reached safely to chase Twins starter J.A. Happ.

“We just stayed very disciplined, had a couple really big swings and kept the line moving when we had him in trouble,” Hinch said. “To chase him out of the game felt like a success because both bullpens were on fumes. It proved to be true. We just couldn’t get to the finish line as easily as we wanted to.”

The Twins replaced Happ with ex-Tiger Beau Burrows.

Zack Short followed Candelario’s double with a sacrifice fly for an 8-0 lead. Willi Castro tripled to center field to make it 9-0, and Harold Castro’s sacrifice fly boosted the margin to 10. Burrows escaped further damage when Greiner grounded out to end the inning.

The eight runs scored in the fourth marked the most runs the Tigers have scored in an inning since plating nine runs in the fifth inning on April 25, 2017, against the Seattle Mariners. (In that game, Ian Kinsler, Tyler Collins, Alex Avila, Jim Adduci and Andrew Romine each had at least three hits.)

Happ allowed nine runs on 10 hits and four walks across three-plus innings. It was the first time the Tigers scored 10 or more runs in the first four innings since June 2, 2017, against the Chicago White Sox. 

“If we don’t have that big inning,” Hinch said, “we’re not sitting here talking about the series win based on how they swung the bats later in the game.”

Scoring first

The Tigers scored first in the second inning on three straight one-out singles from Willi Castro, Harold Castro and Greiner. The single from Greiner rolled into left and scored Willi Castro from second base for a 1-0 lead.

Hill’s two-out bunt single plated Harold Castro to go ahead 2-0.

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All in all Wednesday, the Tigers went 16-for-39 with nine walks and six strikeouts. They finished 11-for-18 with runners in scoring position and received up multi-hit performances from Baddoo (2-for-5, one walk), Hill (3-for-6), Candelario (2-for-5, one walk), Willi Castro (2-for-4), Harold Castro (2-for-4) and Grayson Greiner (2-for-3, two walks).

Haase finished 1-for-3 with three RBIs and three walks.

Peralta gives in

The Tigers gifted right-handed starter Wily Peralta that 10-0 lead, but in the bottom of the fourth, he allowed six runs. Minnesota’s early rally started with Miguel Sano’s solo home run to center and continued with three singles to load the bases.

Ryan Jeffers then blasted a grand slam to center on a sinker, trimming the margin to five runs. After Peralta got an out, he plunked Max Kepler with a fastball, forcing Hinch to turn to his bullpen.

“Poor execution,” Hinch said. “The ball was flying all over the place. We didn’t execute, and they got back in the game with a big swing. … They just never stopped hitting homers after that. Credit to them for continuing the fight when they were down by 10.”

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Righty reliever Kyle Funkhouser entered and allowed three consecutive singles to Brent Rooker, Polanco and Sano. The single from Sano chopped the Tigers’ lead to 10-6.

Funkhouser then struck out Trevor Larnach with the bases loaded and got Willians Astudillo to ground into a force out to end the inning. Peralta allowed six runs on six hits and two walks — with one strikeout — over 3⅓ innings. He threw 42 of 76 pitches for strikes.

“Bringing Funkhouser in there, I was clearly just trying to stop the inning,” Hinch said. “At the start of that inning, there’s no way Funkhouser thought he was going to go in. There’s no way you go in with a 10-run (lead). That’s not his role.”

In the 56-minute fourth inning, the Tigers and Twins combined for 14 runs and 14 hits.

The Tigers scored at least 10 runs and allowed at least six runs within the first four innings for the fifth time in franchise history. The other occurrences came against the Twins (Aug. 31, 1990), Mariners (April 9, 1996), Twins (April 24, 1996) and Baltimore Orioles (July 4, 1997).

Bullpen nearly loses game

After lefty Derek Holland took over for the fifth inning, the Twins seemed destined for a repeat of the fourth inning.

Nick Gordon reached on a fielding error by first baseman Harold Castro, and Jeffers drew a walk. Holland retired the next two batters but loaded the bases by walking Rooker on five pitches.

He got out of the jam by striking out Polanco swinging on three pitches. 

“All of a sudden, you’ve got guys pitching late in the game that didn’t go into that game considering that being their role,” Hinch said. “It is a challenge mentally. It would have been a gut wrenching loss because of the way the day started.”

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Back on the board

The Tigers extended their lead to 13-6 with three runs against Burrows in the sixth inning. Short followed back-to-back walks from Haase and Candelario with an RBI double down the third-base line. Willi Castro chipped in a sacrifice fly, and Greiner doubled off the right-field wall for his team’s 13th run.

Right-hander Buck Farmer pitched a perfect sixth and seventh, but then allowed back-to-back solo homers to Kepler and Rooker in the eighth. After Farmer walked Polanco, Hinch called on righty Joe Jimenez with no outs to face Sano.

“You’re trying to map out the game,” Hinch said. “When you have a 10-run lead, you get a little greedy thinking, ‘How can I get to the finish line without using the guys you want to rest?’ The Twins didn’t really allow for that. They decided to hit everybody.”

“It’s a little unfair to Buck. I asked him to go a third inning. That’s more on me than him. It’s not something he usually does, but we were desperate today for as many outs as we could get out of each individual guy.”

On the first pitch from Jimenez, Sano launched a 473-foot homer to cut the Tigers’ lead to three. The Twins then tacked on a sixth home run — and their fourth long ball in the eighth — on a two-run shot by Jeffers to make it a one-run game. 

Jimenez walked Josh Donaldson to bring the go-ahead run to the plate, but he struck out Kepler.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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