Minneapolis — How about bookend grand slams? By opposing catchers? Why not, it’s never happened in a Major League game before. And this seemingly infinite series between the Tigers and Twins (10 games in 17 days) has had just about everything else.
And on Tuesday, for the first time in five games, it had the Tigers walking off with a win.
Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the top of the 11th inning and some clutch relief work by Jose Cisnero and Daniel Norris gave the Tigers a 6-5 win Tuesday at Target Field, snapping an eight-game road losing streak.
“It’s pretty awesome,” catcher Eric Haase said, with the music from the Tigers’ clubhouse thumping over the Zoom interview. “Just to walk away with a win is huge… . We’ve let a lot of these close games slip through our fingers since the break and it’s kind of left a bad taste in our mouth.
“To get this one tonight is fantastic.”
Box score: Tigers 6, Twins 5 (10)
Twins catcher Mitch Garver started the game with a first-inning grand slam off starter Tyler Alexander and they took a 5-1 lead entering the ninth against a Tigers’ offense that had been largely silent for eight innings.
It got loud in a hurry off right-hander Hansel Robles, who has been pressed into the closer role for the Twins by the injury to All-Star Taylor Rogers.
With one out, Robbie Grossman singled (his second hit of the game), Cabrera doubled and Jeimer Candelario walked.
That brought up Haase, who had struck out twice and hit into a double-play. He battled Robles for eight pitches and then, with the count full, drilled a 97 mph four-seam fastball over the wall in right field.
It was his first career grand slam.
“I really wasn’t thinking about it being my first grand slam,” Haase said. “I was just extremely happy to put us back in a position to win that game.”
One night after Grossman made it a 5-5 tie in the ninth with a two-run homer, Haase’s slam tied this game at 5-5. It was the third straight game at Target Field that the Tigers homered in the ninth to tie it — Jake Rogers on July 11, Grossman and Haase.
Winning one of three will have to do.
“We hung in there,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We didn’t play our best ballgame but we found a way to win.”
After the Tigers failed to score in the top of the 10th, the Twins loaded the bases without a hit against Cisnero. But he struck out Max Kepler and Miguel Sano to get the game to the 11th.
“He threw three fastballs by a good fastball hitter in Sano,” Haase said. “I didn’t think he had a good feel for his slider and if we were going to get beat, I wasn’t comfortable getting beat like that.
“So he reared back and threw three heaters past a really good fastball hitter.”
Cabrera, who doubled and scored in the ninth, lined a single up the middle to score Jonathan Schoop, who was the free runner.
“Miggy likes winning,” Hinch said. “And he does have an edge to him when we aren’t finishing these games the way we intend to.”
That left it up to Norris, who got three ground ball outs to earn first career save.
Until Haase’s blast and the ensuing dramatics, there were essentially two points of light in an otherwise blah night for the Tigers.
One was rookie Akil Baddoo. The other was the return of Michael Fulmer.
The rest, until the ninth, was forgettable.
It was the second time in three games the Tigers trailed 4-0 four batters into the game. The Royals did it to Tarik Skubal on Sunday.
Garver, with the bases full, drove a 1-0 fastball 433 feet into the Twins bullpen. Alexander grinded it out four full innings, the only other blemish was a solo home run by Willians Astudillo in the fourth.
Alexander has been tagged for 10 home runs in 50.2 innings this year.
The Twins have dominated the Tigers at Target Field this season; still, there must be folks in the Twins front office who avert their eyes when Baddoo comes to bat against them.
Even though a credible case can be made for why they left Baddoo unprotected in the 2021 Rule 5 draft – he hadn’t played in two years, hadn’t played above High-A and had 124 strikeouts in his last full season in pro ball – it still has to sting.
Baddoo, though he’s steadfastly claimed no hard feelings for the Twins, continues to make them regret their decision. He continues to make Maeda regret their decision. He doubled and hit his 10th home run of the season Tuesday.
In four games against Maeda, he’s doubled, tripled twice and homered. Against the Twins, he’s 14 for 43 with three doubles, two triples, three home runs and 13 RBIs.
But Maeda held the Tigers in check for six innings. He got one out in the seventh but was pulled with runners at the corners. Tyler Duffey came in and got Haase to hit into a fast 5-4-3 double-play.
Fulmer, who has been on the injured list with a neck strain since June 26, worked a seven-pitch scoreless fifth inning. He struck out Jorge Polanco, painting the inside edge with a 95 mph two-seamer and got Josh Donaldson to roll into a 6-4-3 double-play.
Hinch said the plan was to ease Fulmer back in. This was only his third outing; the first two were rehab innings for Toledo.
Right-hander Erasmo Ramirez saved some wear on the bullpen, keeping the Twins off the board for the final three innings. He allowed just one hit and a walk with three strikeouts.
According to StatsByStats, it was indeed the first time in Major League history that opposing catchers hit grand slams in the same game.