09/13/2004 10:00 PM ET
Tigers brushed off by Twins
Johnson allows four runs in seven innings
By Jason Beck / MLB.com
|Ivan Rodriguez tags out Terry Tiffee at the plate in the fourth inning. (Duane Burleson/AP)
DETROIT -- Four days ago, the Tigers were thankful for not having to face Johan Santana in any game this series against Minnesota. Instead, they got four days of Joe Nathan.
While the Twins didn't have their AL Cy Young award candidate Santana going in the four-game set, the injury-depleted Tigers didn't have much offense to throw at the rest of Minnesota's rotation. Brad Radke's seven innings of one-run ball Monday night completed the demonstration in miserly pitching, earning Minnesota a 5-3 victory and its first-ever four-game sweep of the Tigers.
The way the Tigers are going, they can't say they're glad not to see the Twins again.
"They're good, no question about it," manager Alan Trammell said. "But I don't know if going to Cleveland or Chicago is going to be what you would call easy. Nothing's coming easy for us in any area."
Detroit had All-Star catcher Ivan Rodriguez back in its lineup but went without shortstop Carlos Guillen and left fielder Rondell White, as they might well have to the rest of the season. But for the second straight night, a ninth-inning rally brought the potential tying run to the plate.
Carlos Pena and Eric Munson both walked in the ninth inning off Detroit area native Joe Roa and scored on Jason Smith's double to the left-center field gap. That brought on closer Nathan to face Curtis Granderson, playing his first Major League game after being called up a day earlier from Double-A Erie. Granderson bounced out to second, giving Nathan his fourth save in as many nights and 43rd of the year.
Welcome to the big leagues. "Would've liked to have had a different outcome from a team standpoint and also an individual standpoint," Granderson said. "But hey, I've gone 0-for-4 before."
The Tigers suffered their first four-game sweep at home since Oakland did it Aug. 3-6, 2001. The only four-game sweep last year's Tigers suffered on their way to 119 losses came on the road at Boston.
The biggest hit the Tigers had came against baserunner Terry Tiffee, not Twins pitching. After an Eric Munson error put Tiffee on third base in the fourth inning, he tried to score on Pat Borders' ground ball to third. Munson fired home in plenty of time, and Tiffee tried to dislodge catcher Rodriguez from the ball, giving a forecheck with his right forearm.
Tiffee knocked Pudge over, but Tiffee separated his shoulder in the process. He'll miss the rest of the season.
Neither Rodriguez nor Trammell objected to the play, but they were certainly surprised.
"It was a very open play to me," Pudge said. "He was out by far, and I don't know why he ran to me. I just gave him the plate so he can play, but he just ran right at me. I'm small, but I'm tough. That's what happened. Sorry about that. I don't want to hurt anybody, but that's baseball."
It reminded Rodriguez of the collision he took from San Francisco's J.T. Snow in last year's NL Division Series. He held onto the ball that time, too, sending the Marlins to the second round.
"If you see the replay, it was exactly the same play," Rodriguez said. "When I catch the ball and it's secure in my right hand, that ball's not going out. Anybody can hit me, but it's not going out."
It was the play the Comerica Park crowd will remember. By then, however, three runs had already crossed home plate that inning without any opposition, giving the Twins a 4-0 lead and sending Tigers starter Jason Johnson (8-14) to his sixth straight loss over his last eight starts.
Pitching on three days' rest after back pain plagued him his last start, Johnson felt fine for seven innings of work. "I felt really strong," he said. "When I went out there to warm up, I felt just like I did on four days' rest."
The way the Tigers have been hitting lately, though, he had little margin for mistakes. With 10 hits and three earned runs allowed, he didn't have much of a shot.
"They're a tough team," Johnson said. "They're feisty. They get their hits when they need them. You've got to hold them down, because their pitching staff is doing great right now. It was a tough loss tonight."
It was a familiar foe to which to lose. Radke (11-7) improved to 17-6 lifetime against the Tigers, moving him past Scott Erickson for the most wins versus Detroit of any pitcher not named Roger Clemens. He retired eight straight batters following Omar Infante's double leading off the first.
The only consecutive hits the Tigers had, and three of the seven hits Radke allowed, came in a two-out rally leading to Detroit's lone run. He was a strike away from retiring the side in order when Brandon Inge slapped a single through the middle. Inge advanced to second on Rodriguez's single through the left side and scored when Dmitri Young lofted a blooper in front of left fielder Shannon Stewart.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.