Minneapolis — They say familiarity breeds contempt, but in the case of the Tigers and Twins, who finished off a set of 10 games in 18 games Wednesday, it’s mostly bred chaos.
Four of the games went extra innings. The Tigers hit ninth-inning, game-tying home runs in three of them and were 1-2 in those games. In the games Monday and Tuesday, games that lasted just under four hours, there were 19 pitching changes.
“I hate the schedule this month, playing the Twins this much,” manager AJ Hinch said. “It’s rare. It’s the first time in my career it’s been this way, so I can’t bash it too much. But I don’t think it is the best brand of baseball for the competition part of it when you play the same team 10 times in a month.”
Then this mess happened in the series finale. The Tigers’ 17-14 series-clinching win at a sweltering Target Field on Wednesday was highlighted (or marred, depending on your perspective) by a combined 23-batter, 14-run, 14-hit fourth inning and four-home run eighth inning.
The Tigers sent 11 hitters to the plate and scored eight runs in the top of the fourth against Twins lefty starter J.A. Happ. They were up 10-0 as Wily Peralta went to the mound in the bottom of the fourth.
The Twins countered with 12 hitters and six runs, including a grand slam home run by catcher Ryan Jeffers. Three catchers hit grand slams in this series — Eric Haase for the Tigers, Jeffers and Mitch Garver for the Twins.
It was the fifth time in franchise history, the first since 1997, that the Tigers scored 10 or more runs and allowed six or more in the first four innings of a game.
Oh, there’s more. This turned into a slow-pitch softball game. The Twins hit four more home runs in the eighth, cutting a 13-6 deficit to 13-12.
Max Kepler and Brent Rooker hit back-to-back homers off Buck Farmer to start the eighth. After a walk, Miguel Sano hit the first pitch he saw from Joe Jimenez into the seats. It was his second homer of the game.
After a double by Willians Astudillo, Jeffers hit his second home run of the game, making it a one-run game.
There were 16 home runs hit in this three-game series, seven by the Twins on Wednesday. The Twins hadn’t hit four in an inning since 1992.
The clinching blow for the Tigers turned out to be a three-run double in the top of the ninth by Haase. It put the Tigers up 17-12.
Jorge Polanco hit a two-run home run off Gregory Soto before he mercifully closed it out.
In the Tigers’ eight-run fourth, the first seven hitters reached and scored against Happ. Akil Baddoo doubled in a run. Derek Hill, who had three hits including an RBI bunt single in the second, plated another with an infield single. Jeimer Candelario’s two-run double ended Happ’s day.
Willi Castro greeted former Tiger Beau Burrows with an RBI triple.
On the day, Baddoo, Candelario, Willi Castro, Harold Castro and Grayson Greiner each had two hits. It looked like it was going to be a breeze.
Then the Twins started beating up Peralta. The first five hitters reached and scored — four of them courtesy of Jeffer’s blast. Sano also homered off Peralta in the inning.
Back-to-back walks to start the sixth came back to bite Burrows. Zack Short and Greiner each doubled in a run and Willi Castro plated another with a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 13-6.
The 17 runs, a season-high by the Tigers, was also the most they’ve scored without a home run since July 23, 1961 against the Kansas City Athletics.
It was that kind of series.