Mental miscue costs cold-swinging Tigers in shutout loss to Twins

Detroit News

Minneapolis — Physical errors happen. Baseball is a hard game played by imperfect human beings.

Mental mistakes, as any manager will tell you, shouldn’t happen. They are mostly inexcusable and unacceptable.

Sometimes they are almost inexplicable.

Javier Báez is a Gold Glove-winning shortstop. He’s good for a couple highlight-worthy plays a week. But in the second inning of the Tigers’ 2-0 loss to the Minnesota Twins Tuesday night, he had a brain cramp that contributed to the first run of the game.

BOX SCORE: Twins 2, Tigers 0

Max Kepler was on first base with two outs. Everybody in the ballpark knew that he would be running on the 3-2 pitch to Gio Urshela. Except maybe Báez. Because after Urshela looped a single to shallow left field, Báez pointed for left fielder Willi Castro to throw the ball to second base.

Normally, that is the play. You want to split the runners and not let Urshela get to second. But Kepler was running on the pitch and was about to round third when Báez motioned for Castro to throw to second.

Kepler scored relatively easy and the Tigers, who continue to struggle offensively, were once again tasked with digging out of an early hole.

The Twins scored another runner from first base in the third inning. This time Luis Arraez came all the way around on a double into the left-field corner by Carlos Correa. Castro appeared to have some difficulty picking the ball up off the carom.

With Urshela at first base in the fourth inning, Castro overthrew the cutoff man on a base hit by Jose Miranda. Not only did Urshela roll into third but Miranda got the free pass into second.

Tigers center fielder Derek Hill bailed him out, though. He charged and caught a liner by Ryan Jeffers and without breaking his momentum, threw a 92-mph strike to home plate to nail Urshela.

More: As Fulmer works to get back to form, Lange, Chafin pick up slack in Tigers’ bullpen

Tigers starter Beau Brieske needed 90 pitches to get through four innings. But despite allowing six hits and a walk, the deficit was only two runs.

The offense, though, couldn’t generate anything against right-hander Sonny Gray, who put on a clinic in pitch-sequencing. He kept the Tigers off balance for seven innings by expertly commanding and mixing his five-pitch arsenal.

He struck out 10 and got 13 swings and misses and 22 called strikes. The Tigers managed four hits, two by Jonathan Schoop, and put only two runners in scoring position against him.

Still, they stayed in striking distance thanks again to the stingy bullpen. Jason Foley worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. Jacob Barnes worked a scoreless sixth and Michael Fulmer, in his first action since last Wednesday, struck out the side in the seventh.

Drew Carlton pitched a clean eighth.

The two-run deficit, though, proved insurmountable for the Tigers. They couldn’t dent relievers Tyler Duffey or Jhoan Duran, either. Duran, firing 102-mph seeds in the ninth, gave up a leadoff single to Miguel Cabrera and hit Jeimer Candelario with a two-strike pitch with one out.

But Castro hit into a double play to end the game.

Twitter: @cmccosky

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