Tigers let finale get away vs. Twins
Six-run first not enough as bats fade, 'pen falters
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Leyland spent part of his Sunday morning bemoaning his Tigers' looking like an offensive juggernaut one day and falling back into a hitting funk the next. On Sunday, they did it from one inning to the next.
For one inning, this was the way Detroit's offense is supposed to work. The next eight innings were back to the same struggles as most of the season. The eight innings were the ones that determined the Tigers' fate in Sunday's 7-6 loss to the Twins.
"We didn't add on," Leyland said afterward.
Leyland also called it a turf game, and with reason. From Carlos Guillen's error extending Minnesota's seventh-inning rally to Carlos Gomez's infield single and Joe Mauer's go-ahead single through the middle, the Tigers believe the field made a difference. But Leyland kept coming back to the line score. The Tigers scored six runs in the first, none the rest of the afternoon.
More accurately, they produced six runs on six hits the first inning, nearly matching their first-inning total for the season to date, and then managed just four hits while going scoreless the next eight. Twins starter Boof Bonser threw 45 pitches in the opening inning, and 54 over the next five combined. He threw just five pitches to retire the side in order in the second.
"That's not good," Leyland said.
Lineup changes await the Tigers at home on Monday, but it remains to be seen how much a change in order can change the offense as a whole. The lethargic at-bats that Leyland bemoaned after Saturday's game had far more energy at the start before going lifeless again.
Four consecutive singles followed Curtis Granderson's fifth home run of the season as the Tigers blitzed Bonser. Magglio Ordonez, Guillen and Edgar Renteria all had RBI singles. Guillen scored on a wild pitch, and Renteria came around when Mauer bounced a throw past second base into center field.
Bonser sent down 17 of the next 19 Tigers. That left the game up to Tigers starter Kenny Rogers, who had his largest lead of the season before he took the mound.
It still wasn't enough.
"This is a dome game. I've seen a lot of them over the years," Leyland said. "This is not anything new, really. Normally you'll have a little peck here and a peck there, a little miscue and a chopper. In a park like this, a ball will bounce over somebody's head. This is a typical dome game. When you lose, this is how you lose."
Not only did Rogers retire Minnesota's first 11 batters in order, he struck out five of them. Once Mauer's two-out double in the fourth put a Twins player on the basepaths, Justin Morneau's ensuing RBI single started the pecking. Back-to-back singles and Nick Punto's two-run double in the fifth halved Detroit's lead from the start.
Still, Rogers seemed to gain a second wind from there by retiring six in a row, including the first two batters in the seventh. Matt Tolbert's double down the left-field line broke the string and extended the inning.
That's where the dome portion of the game began.
"It kind of hit the fan real quick," reliever Bobby Seay said, "and spiraled afterwards."
Punto hit a ground ball to third that Guillen said took a higher hop than he expected. The ball skipped off Guillen's glove and rolled between his legs for an error.
Zach Miner entered for Rogers and threw the kind of sinker he wanted to Gomez. However, the ball hit the plate and bounced high enough that it left Renteria with no chance at a play, even with a hurried throw.
In this case, he said, he knew instantly it was a hit.
Brendan Harris' ground-rule double put the go-ahead run in scoring position before Seay entered to face Mauer. Seay put Mauer in a 1-2 count, but his bouncer up the middle had enough speed to elude Renteria and second baseman Placido Polanco as it skipped past them into center field, taking the lead with it.
"We had a big lead," Seay said. "That's why you get 27 outs."
The Twins eventually took advantage of theirs. But another run from the Tigers once the Twins started whittling into the lead might have halted some momentum. Mathematically, it would've helped.
Granderson created one final chance to extend the game in the ninth, chopping an infield single up the middle with one out and then stealing second. But Twins closer Joe Nathan struck out Miguel Cabrera on three pitches to record his 11th save and second of the series.
It was a dome game. But it was a dome game that was tough to shrug off.
"A lot of times here, it's the stuff that leads up to it," Leyland said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.