Detroit Tigers on wrong side of bizarre play, lose in ninth at Minnesota Twins, 5-4


MINNEAPOLIS — The Detroit Tigers found a new way to get walked off, losing the opening game of the series to the Twins, 5-4.

With two one and one out in the ninth, Miguel Sano liner into the right-center that was gone off the glove of Robbie Grossman. Both runners got late starts as the relay throw went home to catcher Eric Haase.

When Haase got the ball, Trevor Larnach and Gio Urshela seemed destined to both occupy third base. As Haase run toward third, he decided to throw to the base, but his throw sailed into the left field, allowing the tying and winning runs to score.

After closer Gregory Soto walked the first two hitters he faced on eight straight pitches before striking out Max Kepler and setting the stage for Sano.

Before the wild last play, the Tigers needed some magic.

Manager AJ Hinch’s squad strolled into Target Field on Tuesday having lost four of five series this season. The slow-to-start offense amid chilly April temperatures in the Midwest is to blame.

The key to the offense’s ignition revealed itself in Tuesday’s three-game series opener. Shortstop Javier Báez drilled a three-run home run to center field with one out in the eighth inning.

Tigers shortstop Javier Baez throws the ball to first base to get out Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers in the second inning on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Minneapolis.

The 415-foot line drive from Báez, which had a 108.6 mph exit velocity, gave the Tigers a one-run lead against Twins right-handed reliever Emilio Pagan. He hit Pagan’s second-pitch splitter in a 1-0 count.

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Báez finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs and one walk in his second game since returning from a thumb injury.

Before Sunday’s return, the 29-year-old hadn’t played since April 12. His other home run in 2022 occurred April 11 against the Boston Red Sox, breaking a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning.

The Twins scored their runs courtesy of left-handed hitter Kepler against Tigers lefty Eduardo Rodriguez. Kepler, who has recently struggled in lefty-lefty matchups, hammered an RBI double in the second inning and a two-run home run in the fourth.

Kepler’s hits put the Twins ahead 3-0.

Offense starts slow

Before Twins right-handed starter Chris Paddack departed from his start, the Tigers squandered an opportunity to pile up runs.

Derek Hill and Robbie Grossman opened the sixth inning with back-to-back singles. Austin Meadows, the Tigers’ best hitter this season, grounded into a double play. Báez put the Tigers on the scoreboard with an RBI double off the right-field wall.

The Twins removed Paddack after Báez double, replacing him with righty reliever Tyler Duffey. The next batter, Miguel Cabrera, grounded out to end the top of the sixth inning.

Cabrera also struck out swinging with Meadows standing on third base in the fourth inning. In the second, Jeimer Candelario grounded into a double play after Spencer Torkelson’s single to center started the inning.

Paddack allowed one run on five hits and one walk with six strikeouts in 5⅔ innings, throwing 60 of 87 pitches for strikes. He made hitters uncomfortable by mixing and locating his three pitches: 37 four-seam fastballs (43%), 30 changeups (34%) and 20 curveballs (23%).

All three offerings were electric.

Rodriguez vs. Correa

As for Rodriguez, he did enough to keep the Tigers in the game.

He retired Byron Buxton, MLB’s hottest hitter, three times. He struck out Carlos Correa, a fellow member of last offseason’s free-agent class, three times with an array of pitches.

The 29-year-old gave up three runs on four hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings. He has made four starts since inking a five-year, $77 million contract in November.

Tigers pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers a pitch against the Twins in the first inning on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Tigers pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez delivers a pitch against the Twins in the first inning on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Rodriguez has completed six innings in consecutive outings, burning through 98 pitches Aug. 20 start against the New York Yankees and 102 pitches Tuesday against the Twins.

The Tigers have combined for four runs in those 12 frames.

Correa could have joined Rodriguez and the Tigers, but he waited to sign his contract until after MLB’s lockout and ended up inking a three-year, $105.3 million deal — with opt-outs after each season — with the Minnesota Twins. (The Tigers, instead, locked up Báez on a six-year, $140 million contract.)

Entering Tuesday, Correa was 6-for-10 with one double, one RBI, five walks and two strikeouts in 15 plate appearances against Rodriguez. He went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in the latest matchup.

Rodriguez punched him out with a changeup in the first inning, fastball in the third and cutter in the fifth. The at-bat in the first inning lasted five pitches, with Rodriguez using three consecutive changeups.

The next two at-bats between Rodriguez and Correa lasted three pitches apiece. He threw one slider and two four-seam fastballs in the third, then two fastballs and one cutter in the fifth.

Twins right fielder Max Kepler hits an RBI double next to Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart during the second inning on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Twins right fielder Max Kepler hits an RBI double next to Tigers catcher Tucker Barnhart during the second inning on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Minneapolis.

After Kepler’s RBI double in the second inning, the Twins had a 1-0 advantage and two runners in scoring position. Rodriguez limited the damage by retiring three batters in a row: Miguel Sano (strikeout), Ryan Jeffers (groundout) and Gilberto Celestino (lineout).

He struck out Sano looking on three pitches.

For his 102 pitches (65 strikes), Rodriguez used 43 fastballs, 28 changes, 16 cutters, eight sinkers and seven sliders. He generated five swings and misses — three fastballs and two changes — and 26 called strikes.

Of his 26 called strikes, 15 were fastballs.

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.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers on wrong side of bizarre play, lose at Twins, 5-4





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