Comeback provides sweep of Tigers
Twins overcome six-run deficit in finale to win fifth straight
MINNEAPOLIS -- For the second game in a row, the Twins pitching staff accomplished the improbable.
Saturday night a rookie reliever came in for an injured starter and pitched four scoreless innings, earning his first Major League win. Sunday afternoon was perhaps even better.
After giving up six runs in a 45-pitch, 26-minute top of the first inning, Boof Bonser started the game over to give the Twins a chance. They took advantage, coming back for a 7-6 victory over the Tigers.
"He gained his composure and started locating his fastball and using his offspeed stuff," acting manager Scott Ullger said of Bonser. "That's all we could ask from him. We said, 'Boof, you have to start over.' After that first inning, he went out and started over and pitched a strong five after that."
He didn't actually start the game over -- he still had that six-run deficit to account for -- but when he came out firing in the second inning and retired the Tigers on five pitches, it gave the Twins a spark.
Bonser retired 17 of the last 19 hitters he faced on just 54 pitches, not allowing another run to score. And the Twins offense took that as their cue.
Tigers starter Kenny Rogers had them handcuffed through the first three innings, but Joe Mauer knocked the Twins' first hit of the game -- a two-out double in the fourth inning. Justin Morneau drove in Mauer with a single, and the Twins began chipping away at what once looked like an insurmountable lead.
Nick Punto drove in two runs in the fifth, and the Twins took the lead in the four-run seventh when Mauer drove in two runs with a single.
"That's the weird thing. We were never down tonight," Punto said. "The performance of the game tonight, for me, was Boof Bonser. Keeping us in that game. Kenny Rogers throws three innings, and we don't score a run. We get a run in the fourth, and we never really gave up. But the guy who really didn't give up was Boof, and that was an outstanding performance. He definitely was the player of the game for me."
The six-run deficit overcome on Sunday ties the second-largest in team history. They have done it 13 times previously, but not since July 15, 2002, against Anaheim.
Bonser made no excuses for the first inning after the game. He said the Tigers just seemed to be able to hit everything he threw over the plate. But beginning in the second, he started locating his fastball and gaining control of his offspeed pitches.
Bonser said he had some choice words for himself as he was walking off the mound at the end of the lengthy first inning, but nothing he could repeat to reporters.
"I looked at it as the damage is done," Bonser said. "I threw my 40 pitches in one inning, what else can happen? I started making pitches, hitting the spots. Luckily, I went out and threw five pitches in the second inning, and I think that's when it all came together."
All but one of the Twins' batters had a hit in the game, trying to take Bonser off the hook.
"That's huge for our pitching staff to see that we're still going to go out there and put up runs for them," Mauer said. "It doesn't matter if we're down 6-0 or whenever. That's a big win for us today, and hopefully our pitchers will know that we're out there trying to score runs. If they can hold them like they did after that first inning, that would be great too."
It's taken a month for the Twins to get on a run, but they went 5-0 on this homestand -- all against American League Central foes -- and the offense seems to be gelling.
Mauer has hit safely in 14 of his past 15 games, and prior to Sunday, Michael Cuddyer was on an eight-game hitting streak. New Twins such as Carlos Gomez and Brendan Harris have found their swings.
The staff, as well, is finding its stride. Even with the uncertainty of Scott Baker's injured groin, the pitching looks solid. In the three-game series against Detroit, the bullpen had a combined ERA of 0.82, allowing just one earned run over 11 innings. Closer Joe Nathan earned his 11th save in as many opportunities. He has saved 18 consecutive opportunities dating back to Sept. 9, 2007, in Chicago.
Riding a five-game streak, a come-from-behind-win could just be what the Twins need to keep the momentum rolling.
"I think [a game like that] just proves you can't count us out," Bonser said. "I gave up that six runs, but we went out and scored seven. The game's not over. It wasn't a good thing it happened in the first inning, but at the same time, I'm glad it didn't happen in the sixth inning. For us to have a perfect homestand is a great thing."
Leslie Parker is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.