Much as they did the entire first half, the Detroit Tigers are stumbling early in the second half of the season.
A three-run eighth-inning rally wasn’t nearly enough for a comeback.
The Tigers — playing their first home game since July 6 — lost 8-4 to the Minnesota Twins in Saturday’s series opener in front of 34,205 fans at Comerica Park. The offense scored three runs in the eighth, but the defense was responsible for four crucial mistakes, including two errors, in the seventh and eighth innings to spoil any chance of winning.
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The first run for the Tigers (38-57) came in the sixth inning, when rookie Riley Greene injected life into the unproductive offense with a leadoff triple to the gap in right-center field off right-handed starter Joe Ryan.
Javier Báez, who finished 1-for-2 with two walks and a strikeout, capitalized by shooting a two-strike fastball into right field for an RBI single.
Still, the Tigers trailed 2-1.
The next three batters — Robbie Grossman (flyout on 3-0 fastball), Miguel Cabrera (strikeout on three pitches) and Harold Castro (flyout) — stranded Báez at first base.
Before Castro stepped to the plate, Twins manager Rocco Baldelli replaced Ryan with right-handed reliever Emilio Pagan.
Ryan, lowering his ERA to 2.89 through 15 starts in his second MLB season, allowed one run on four hits and one walk with seven strikeouts over 5⅔ innings. The 26-year-old recorded 10 swings and misses, including five with his slider.
The Tigers scored their second, third and fourth runs in the eighth inning, thanks to two-out RBI singles from Cabrera and Castro off left-handed reliever Jovani Moran. Right-hander Trevor Megill replaced Morgan, and a wild pitch scored pinch-runner Zack Short.
Detroit’s offense, which averages 3.15 runs per game, recorded six hits and four walks with seven strikeouts against six pitchers.
The Tigers failed to build on the second triple of Greene’s career.
Instead, the team squandered the momentum with poor defense from third baseman Jeimer Candelario in the seventh inning. Alex Kirilloff, facing left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin, opened the frame with a single.
On the next two plays, Candelario botched the ball while trying to field it.
A grounder from Jose Miranda deflected off Candelario’s glove — in front of a ranging Báez — and skipped into the outfield for a single; that was followed by a grounder from Kyle Garlick which bounced off his glove for a fielding error. Those mistakes loaded the bases with nobody out.
Gio Urshela’s ensuing sacrifice fly put the Twins ahead 3-1.
Right-hander Joe Jiménez replaced Chafin and recorded the second out. He should have escaped without further damage, but left fielder Akil Baddoo dropped the ball in foul territory while attempting a sliding catch.
Two pitches later, Luis Arraez delivered a two-run single into right field for a 5-1 lead. Carlos Correa nearly hammered a two-run homer, but Baddoo timed his jump perfectly and robbed him of his second long ball of the game.
Short run for “Big Mike”
After three innings, right-hander Michael Pineda left his start due to right tricep tightness.
The 33-year-old didn’t concede a walk but allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts. He needed 30 of his 55 pitches to complete the first inning, as the first three batters reached safely with singles.
A sacrifice fly from Max Kepler put the Twins up 1-0.
In the second inning, Pineda threw 12 pitches and recorded two strikeouts. He retired three of four batters in a 13-pitch third, but with one out, Minnesota scored its second run. Correa cranked a 88.7 mph four-seam fastball into the visitor’s bullpen in left-center field for a 426-foot solo home run.
Trailing 5-1, right-hander Will Vest — in his first game back from the paternity list — took over for the eighth inning. The first three batters reached safely on a walk and two singles.
The Tigers made another defensive miscue, this time with the bases loaded and one out, as second baseman Jonathan Schoop fielded a weak grounder from Gilberto Celestino. Schoop threw home to catcher Tucker Barnhart, but the two-time Gold Glove winner dropped the ball for an error and a 6-1 Twins lead.
The Twins plated two more runs on an RBI single from Urshela (over a leaping Báez) and an RBI fielder’s choice from Gary Sanchez before Vest ended the inning. Two of the three runs in the eighth were unearned runs.
Right-hander Jason Foley pitched a scoreless ninth.
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