Detroit Tigers’ offense remains silent in 2-0 loss to Minnesota Twins to fall to 14-28

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers left fielder Willi Castro fielded a single from Gio Urshela and lofted the ball to second baseman Jonathan Schoop on one hop. As this happened, Max Kepler raced around third base.

He was determined to score.

Shortstop Javier Báez directed Castro to throw the ball to Schoop, and by the time Schoop fired a bullet to catcher Tucker Barnhart, Kepler slid across the plate to score — all the way from first base — for the Minnesota Twins’ first run.

“We both were trying to go to second (base) to keep (Urshela) at first (base),” Báez said. “(Kepler) had a good jump, and it took a little bit for Castro to get to the ball because he was playing over (toward center field) and it was soft contact.

“And he just kept sending him. We didn’t see that, and we didn’t expect him to be that close to third base. They just saw that and made that adjustment at the moment.”

The Tigers lost, 2-0, in the second of three games at Target Field, falling to 14-28 this season. They’re 12½ games behind the first-place Twins in the American League Central.

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Castro made two mistakes — but no errors — in the outfield, though his woes weren’t the reason the Tigers dropped their fifth of five games against the Twins this season.

The offense remained in hibernation mode, posting five hits and one walk with 12 strikeouts. Schoop notched his second straight two-hit performance, boosting his batting average to .178 across 41 games. Miguel Cabrera also had two hits and is hitting .289 in 37 games.

“We got a hell of a lot of ballgames left to play,” Barnhart said. “We got 120 games left, which is a lot. It sucks losing. It’s tough coming out on the wrong end of these things, but we got a lot of games left. There’s a lot of confidence in this team.”

Twins right-hander Sonny Gray, traded from the Cincinnati Reds in March, pitched a gem in his sixth start, throwing seven scoreless innings on four hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts, using 95 pitches (68 strikes).

“I’ve faced him a lot, and he’s been really hard to hit,” Báez said. “He had good command of his fastball and his pitches, and that means — at least to me and obviously other guys — he was really good.”

Gray has a 2.60 ERA in 2022.

“There’s no part of me that would say we beat ourselves,” Barnhart said. “You have to tip your cap. … He was on tonight. It wasn’t like we were chasing a bunch of a pitches. He just made good pitches and made it tough on us.”

When Gray departed, right-handed reliever Tyler Duffey delivered a perfect eighth out of the bullpen.

Righty Jhoan Duran pitched a scoreless ninth, but not before Cabrera (single) and Jeimer Candelario (hit-by-pitch) reached safely with one out. Castro grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Brieske ‘did give us a chance’

Right-hander Beau Brieske, in his sixth start, lasted four innings.

The Tigers didn’t send him back out for the fifth because he had already thrown 90 pitches (55 strikes). He allowed two runs on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts.

“He didn’t go very deep into the game, but he did give us a chance because he hung in there,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “They nicked him for a couple runs. He didn’t cave. He didn’t concede. It looked like they were on his pitches, and they took some pretty good swings, but he also beat them with some fastballs. That was a positive step.”

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In the third inning, Carlos Correa pushed the Twins’ advantage to 2-0 with an RBI double down the third-base line and into the left-field corner. He scored Luis Arraez from first base.

Brieske threw 15 pitches in the first inning, 28 pitches in the second, 27 pitches in the third and 20 pitches in the fourth. His longest battle was an 11-pitch at-bat against Byron Buxton in the third, which resulted in a flyout to center field.

To end the fourth, Ryan Jeffers lined out to center fielder Derek Hill.

After the catch, Urshela tagged up at third base and tried to score. Hill launched a line-drive to Barnhart’s glove, and the two-time Gold Glove-winning catcher applied an aggressive tag for the inning-ending double play.

“He positioned himself well,” Hinch said. “A lot of fundamental things went right. It was a big out. Certainly, keeping them off the scoreboard with as tough of a time as we were having offensively was key.”

Brieske used 49 four-seam fastballs (54%), 19 changeups (21%), 13 curveballs (14%), nine sliders (10%). He recorded five swings and misses: three fastballs and two changeups.

He also had 13 called strikes.

“We had a chance to win it there in the ninth,” Barnhart said. “I sound like a broken record saying it, but that’s what you want. You want to give your offense a chance to win the game when it’s all said and done. We had a chance, but we just didn’t get it done tonight.”

Fulmer bounces back

The Tigers’ bullpen, although active early, kept the team within striking distance, as scoreless innings were thrown by four right-handed relievers: Jason Foley in the fifth, Jacob Barnes in the sixth, Michael Fulmer in the seventh and Drew Carlton in the eighth.

Foley loaded the bases on one hit and two walks, but he worked out of the one-out jam by retiring Kepler and Gilberto Celestino.

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Two innings later, Fulmer took the mound for the first time since last Wednesday.

He struck out the heart of Minnesota’s lineup — Arraez, Correa and Gary Sanchez — in order, throwing 19 pitches (11 strikes) and using six curveballs, six sinkers, six sliders and one four-seam fastball.

“We all believe in Mike,” Barnhart said. “There’s no doubt about that. He’s an integral part of our bullpen, integral part of our team. He’s a leader in our clubhouse, a leader in that bullpen. We have all the confidence in the world in him. Everybody hits a rough patch during a season.”

Carlton pitched a perfect eighth in his second appearance.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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