Big seventh frame gives Twins sweep
Offense comes alive with six runs to push past Tigers
MINNEAPOLIS -- During the parts of nine seasons that Joe Crede spent with the White Sox, he earned the reputation of being a clutch hitter, someone you want at the plate in big situations.Judging by Crede's past two games with the Twins, that reputation should start to follow him now in the Twin Cities as well. Just hours after he blasted a walk-off grand slam in the 13th inning of Wednesday's game against the Tigers, Crede delivered yet another game-winning hit at the Metrodome. This time it was a two-run bloop single to center field that capped off the Twins' six-run rally in the seventh inning, giving Minnesota a 6-5 win over Detroit on Thursday afternoon and completing a series sweep of its division rivals. "One of the best feelings you can have as a baseball player on the field," Crede said of his recent game-winning hits. Thursday's victory gave the Twins just their second series sweep of the season and the fifth win in their past six contests. Late-game rallies have become a trend for this Twins club that lately never feels out of a contest. With the club sporting a deeper lineup this season, thanks in part to the addition of Crede and Michael Cuddyer from injuries, it's been easier than in years past to put together big innings like the one it had in Thursday's win. "We've got guys who put together good at-bats, and that comes from the depth of the lineup, not having to rely on doing it yourself," Cuddyer said. "You can have confidence in the guy behind you to get the job done, which ultimately is going to allow you to have better at-bats." Crede's latest big hit came after the Twins found themselves in a 5-0 hole in the sixth inning due to some troubles by Scott Baker. It had been a pitchers' duel for most of the contest, with Baker and Tigers starter Justin Verlander going nearly pitch-for-pitch through five scoreless innings. Baker retired the first 10 batters he faced before giving up a single to Ramon Santiago with one out in the fourth. He faced the minimum number of batters through five innings, as he didn't allow another hitter to reach base until Brandon Inge singled to center field at the start of the sixth. Despite giving up back-to-back hits to start the sixth, Baker managed to retire the next two batters he faced, but that's when trouble struck. With the outfield playing in, Santiago hit a ball over the head of left fielder Jason Kubel for a ground-rule double that scored one run for Detroit. From there, things unraveled, as Baker gave up a two-run single to Magglio Ordonez after getting ahead of him with an 0-2 count. Baker then allowed two more hits and walked one to put the Twins in a 5-0 hole. "After you give up the first run, you have to make a pitch. He did not make a pitch after that," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's got great stuff. He proves it for the first five innings. But he just didn't make a pitch in that inning and he ends up giving up five. ... It's damage control and he's got to do a better job of it." Thursday's outing wasn't the first time this season that Baker watched a dominant start implode. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Royals on May 3, but then gave up five runs without retiring a single batter. "You keep throwing it over and keep trying to execute pitches, and that's your main objective," Baker said. "Whatever happens, happens. That was probably a situation today where if I throw a different pitch to Magglio, we would have been out there and it would have been a different game." Baker was fortunate that his teammates were able to erase that big deficit in the seventh, thanks in large part to the club finally knocking Verlander out of the contest. Verlander came into Thursday's game on a hot streak, and he continued his dominant pitching for much of the game. With his strikeout of Crede to start the seventh, Verlander set a career high in strikeouts (13), limiting the Twins to just two runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings before leaving the game after throwing 122 pitches. But the Tigers' bullpen -- worn down following Wednesday's extra-inning affair -- couldn't hold up Verlander's dominant performance. Matt Tolbert drew a bases-loaded walk off left-hander Bobby Seay (0-1) to score one run. Joe Mauer drove in another on a fielder's choice and Justin Morneau added an RBI single to trim Detroit's lead to 5-3. Kubel then smashed a liner to center fielder that bounced over the wall, pulling the Twins within one and causing the Tigers to go once again to their maligned 'pen. Struggling Tigers reliever Zach Miner walked Cuddyer to load the bases with two outs, and that's when Crede hit a 1-0 pitch from Miner to center field to complete the comeback. "When you see a pitcher who was on his game like he was today, the best thing you can really do is take pitches and try to get into that bullpen," Crede said. "After a long night last night, their bullpen was pretty taxed, as was ours. You feel you have a better opportunity with their bullpen than we would have had with Verlander today." The Twins' relief corps was able to hold up that lead. Craig Breslow, the only reliever who didn't see the mound on Wednesday night, pitched 1 2/3 scoreless innings to pick up his first career victory in 90 Major League appearances. Matt Guerrier got one other big out in the eighth before Joe Nathan recorded his sixth save of the season.
Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.