Detroit Tigers get bombs from Spencer Torkelson, Kerry Carpenter to beat Twins, 8-7

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Riley Greene. Spencer Torkelson. Kerry Carpenter.

The trio of high-upside position players in the heart of the batting order combined for four home runs and carried the Detroit Tigers in Wednesday’s 8-7 win over the Minnesota Twins in the finale of the two-game series at Target Field.

“The guys that hit them today are going to hit them for us,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said of the homers. “Tork, growing into his power. Riley, awesome two-strike homer. Carp, oppo again. Those guys are going to display some power.”

Greene, Torkelson and Carpenter drove in seven of the eight runs while collecting seven hits in 13 at-bats. Leadoff hitter Akil Baddoo, who scored three of those runs, set the table for the budding stars with one single and three walks in his five plate appearances on his 25th birthday.

“I wish it was his birthday every day,” Hinch said. “He did everything that we see in him. … That’s the good version that we keep trying to get more consistent, and when he does that, we love what he does.”

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The Tigers (54-66) trail the Twins by eight games for first place in the American League Central. More importantly, the Tigers are finally reaping the consistent benefits of the young players they began developing in the big leagues last season.

A four-run seventh inning put the Tigers ahead, 7-4, and showcased a glimpse of the future.

The comeback started with a one-out walk from Baddoo and continued with Greene’s triple off right-handed reliever Griffin Jax for the first run to tie the game at four runs apiece. The next batter, Matt Vierling, grounded out to the right side to bring Greene home for a 5-4 lead.

Home runs were responsible for the final two runs in the four-run seventh inning, as Torkelson and Carpenter launched back-to-back solo homers for a 7-4 advantage, with both players hitting sweepers from Jax to left field. Torkelson’s home run, his second of the game, traveled 405 feet.

“I think this team is always on attack mode,” Torkelson said. “We’re not letting up on anything.”

Torkelson, who has four multi-homer games this season and six homers in his past seven games, recorded his 20th and 21st home runs in his 118th game of the season, his second year in the big leagues.

The 23-year-old — who turns 24 on Aug. 26 — became the seventh player in franchise history to hit at least 20 home runs in his age-23 season, joining Travis Fryman, Hank Greenberg, Willie Horton, Matt Nokes, Jason Thompson and Rudy York.

Carpenter, meanwhile, has 16 home runs in 77 games.

The Tigers also scored three runs in the third inning, thanks again to the combination of Greene and Torkelson. Facing right-hander Kenta Maeda, Greene launched a fastball for a 448-foot two-run home run to center and Torkelson blasted a curveball for a 432-foot solo home run to left-center.

Those homers cut the Tigers’ deficit to 4-3.

Greene has 11 homers in 84 games this season.

“I was going based on how they attacked me the first time we faced them,” Greene said of his second matchup with Maeda in six days. “He switched it up and threw the splitter a little bit more, but I stuck to my strengths and what I do. I don’t really change my approach for anyone.”

The Tigers tacked on their eighth run in the ninth inning on Greene’s sacrifice fly to center field, taking an 8-4 lead. The 22-year-old, who ended a double shy of the cycle, finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs to pace the offensive production.

Greene is hitting .309 this season.

“I didn’t know at first, and then somebody said something to me,” said Greene, who hasn’t hit for the cycle since high school.

“That’s on me,” Torkelson said. “I kind of let him know. I was like, ‘Cycle watch.’ … But he’s incredible.”

It wasn’t an easy finish to the game.

Right-handed reliever Jason Foley, who hadn’t allowed a home run in 51⅔ innings this season, surrendered a two-run homer to Polanco and a solo homer to Kepler to begin the bottom of the ninth inning, trimming the Tigers’ lead to 8-7.

Royce Lewis hit a single to keep the pressure on, but Foley retired the next two batters — Matt Wallner (340-foot flyout) and Donovan Solano (double play) — to protect the one-run margin.

Olson’s obstacle

Right-hander Reese Olson, facing the Twins for the second time in as many starts, allowed four runs on eight hits and one walk with three strikeouts in 2⅔ innings. He threw 45 of 67 pitches for strikes and wasn’t sharp.

The 24-year-old generated just seven whiffs on 33 swings, plus 12 called strikes.

Lewis, the former No. 1 overall pick who wasn’t in the Twins’ lineup last week, drilled a two-out double to right field for a 1-0 lead in the first inning. He stepped to the plate after Olson’s two-out walk to Kepler, who advanced to second base on a wild pitch.

The Twins added three more runs in the second inning for a 4-0 advantage. Olson allowed four singles in a row to Christian Vazquez, Joey Gallo, Kyler Farmer and Eduard Julien. The single from Julien drove in two runs and was followed by Polanco’s sacrifice fly for the third run.

Olson exited with two outs and two runners in scoring position in the third inning. Right-handed reliever Beau Brieske stranded the runners by striking out Joey Gallo, a left-handed slugger, with a down-and-away changeup.

For his 67 pitches, Olson used 26 sliders (39%), 19 sinkers (28%), 10 four-seam fastballs (15%), nine changeups (13%) and three curveballs (4%). He recorded seven whiffs on four sliders and three sinkers.

Holton’s heroics

The Tigers turned to left-handed reliever Tyler Holton, replacing Brieske, with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning. Holton had to face Wallner, who crushed a grand slam in Tuesday’s series opener but struggles against lefties.

“This was a perfect opportunity for Holton,” Hinch said.

Holton struck out Wallner with a down-and-away slider.

“We’re all asked to do our job,” Holton said. “It was a big moment for us.”

The 27-year-old completed 2⅓ scoreless innings with five strikeouts.

Holton, whom president of baseball operations Scott Harris claimed off waivers from the Arizona Diamondbacks in spring training, has a 1.74 ERA across 62 innings in 42 appearances this season, including a 1.07 ERA across his past 33⅔ innings.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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