Long ball hurts Twins vs. Tigers
Santana gives up two homers; Crain allows walk-off
DETROIT -- It wasn't the way the Twins had wanted to see their series with the Tigers end.One crushing pitch to the first batter faced in the bottom of the ninth inning turned into a walk-off homer by Brandon Inge that carried the Tigers to a 4-3 victory on Sunday afternoon. It seemed like the worst possible finish to what had been a very positive series for the Twins. But having come into the series at Detroit on a mission to erase the offensive struggles of the past week and taking two of three from the Tigers with a good chance at a win in the final game, the Twins came away from the three games feeling anything but down. "It feels good every time you win two of three because you just want to win a series," Torii Hunter said. "It's hard to sweep a Major League team. And when we can come in and take two of three from a ballclub like this, great pitching, good arms and all the guys are hitters, you just have to be happy with that." Certainly it was disappointing that the Twins weren't able to take advantage of the opportunity to capture a win on a day when their ace Johan Santana was on the mound. But it was the Tigers that seemed to work Santana as hard as any team. Santana didn't have all of his pitches working Sunday, with problems occurring mostly with his slider. It was on two sliders, both of which flattened out, that Santana gave up all three of his runs. The first came in the third inning when Santana missed with a slider to outfielder Magglio Ordonez, who deposited it in the right-field seats. Another poor slider on the first pitch of the fourth to Marcus Thames put the Twins down, 3-2. And the mistakes weren't Santana's only concern, as the Tigers forced him into a high pitch count early in his outing by fouling off plenty of pitches. The left-hander had thrown 49 pitches through the first two innings without having given up a run. And it was an effort just to be able to make it through six as he threw a total of 114 pitches, giving up the three runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out six. "They made me work a lot today, but we tried to stay on the game plan we had," Santana said. "I made a couple mistakes with a few pitches and a couple sliders that didn't break. They took advantage of that. It was one of those days where you cannot afford to make too many mistakes against a good team because they put good swings on it. And I think that's what they did today." Still, despite the troubles that Santana faced, the Twins were able to remain right in the game. After falling behind, 2-0, in the third, the Twins rallied to tie the game up in the fourth. Hunter and Mike Redmond delivered back-to-back singles to center field off Tigers starter Mike Maroth with two outs to put runners on first and third. Jason Kubel then drilled a shot to deep center field, one that likely would be out in most ballparks, which scored both runs and tied the game at 2. And even when the Twins fell behind, 3-2, on Thames' home run, it was Hunter who was able to knot it up once again as he delivered almost an identical homer to Thames' over the left-field wall in the sixth. The back and forth battle eventually came down into a war of the bullpens, and Jesse Crain was the victim of a mistake pitch at the wrong time. After falling behind to Inge, the first batter he faced in his second inning of work, Crain delivered a 3-1 fastball that he left up and was deposited over the left-field fence. The homer was a continuation of struggles that have plagued Crain in his second inning of work this season. Afterward, Crain was searching for answers. "I think I was rushing it a bit," Crain said. "Maybe [pitching two innings] is something I need to focus on a little more. I don't know. But I'm sure it will turn around." As much as Crain's pitch proved costly, so too did the Twins' mistakes earlier in the game. Multiple times, the Twins had opportunities with runners in scoring position with two outs. And though all of them but one were wasted, the most frustrating was the fact that two of the chances were squandered on baserunning blunders. Redmond was the cause of the first blunder in the second inning. That's when he tried to advance from second to third on a Kubel flyout to the left-field wall. But with two outs in the inning, Redmond didn't beat the throw and one chance was lost. "I got too aggressive, bottom line," Redmond said. "It was stupid, a bad play on my part. I took myself out of scoring position, trying to get 90 feet closer. The guy hit the ball off the wall and figured I could make it. I was wrong." The second involved Kubel in the fourth inning after his double. With Kubel standing on second base with two outs, the team had a chance to extend the already big inning with just a base hit. But that chance was erased for the club when Kubel was picked off second base by catcher Ivan Rodriguez. "The baserunning was disappointing," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Those things get you early in the game and can be very costly." Still, following the tough one-run loss, the mood inside the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park was upbeat with hip-hop music pumping loudly. "Coming off not such a good series at home, that was big," Santana said. "It was good to see everybody start going again, hitting the ball and putting good at-bats out there. We lost a very tough game today, but we'll come back Tuesday and start trying to win games all over again."
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.