Twins 4, Tigers 3: Joaquin Benoit blows first save of season, bullpen implodes in extra innings loss

Hannah Foslien

The Magic Number remains at two. The Tigers' oft undependable bullpen was just that, blowing a three run lead and wasting a dominant 12 strikeout start by Justin Verlander. Joaquin Benoit blew his first save of the season as the Tigers fall in 11 innings.


Final - 9.23.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 10 0
Minnesota Twins 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 1 4 14 0
WP: Anthony Swarzak (3 - 2)
LP: Luke Putkonen (1 - 2)

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The Detroit Tigers wasted a dominant start by Justin Verlander, Joaquin Benoit blowing his first save of the season in a 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The loss means Detroit's Magic Number for clinching the Central remains two. The Tigers can still clinch their third straight Central division crown tomorrow with the combination of a victory and and Indians loss.

Verlander showed off some of his best stuff of the season. His fastball was peaking in the high 90's, while using a nasty breaking ball to strike out 12. Verlander would pitch six very strong innings, shutting out the Twins on six hits. After an ineffective Jose Veras allowed two runs in the bottom of the eighth, Joaquin Benoit was called on to record a five out save. He instead blew his first save in 24 chances and stuck Verlander with a no-decision, allowing a home run to Brian Dozier in the bottom of the ninth.

The Tigers' seventh pitcher of the night would take the loss. Luke Putkonen recorded only one out, allowing the game winning single to the Twins' Josmil Pinto in the bottom of the 11th. Overall, Tigers pitching struck out 17 in losing effort.

Twins' starter Mike Pelfrey pitched very well for the Twins ... but not as well as Verlander. Pelfrey allowed just one run and six hits in six innings, suffering the loss. The Tigers tacked on a pair runs off reliever Casey Fein, who gave up two runs and four hits in just 1/3 of an inning.

From that point on, the Twins' bullpen was lights out, not allowing a hit over the final 4 2/3 innings. Earning the victory was Anthony Swarzak, tossing a 1-2-3 11th.

Torii Hunter led the Tigers' offense with three hits and an RBI. Miguel Cabrera added a pair of hits, driving in a run. Victor Martinez added an RBI double, the tenth and fnal hit of the night for Detroit. The Tigers could only muster two walks in the final four plus innings.

The Twins would out hit the Tigers 14-10, scoring all their runs from the eighth inning on. Eduardo Escobar and Ryan Doumit had back-to-back RBI  doubles in the eighth, Dozier homered in the ninth and Pinto's game winning single in the 11th.

Tonight's loss was a tale of two games in one. The Tigers stopped hitting after the seventh, the Twins started hitting in the eighth. The Tigers won the battle of the starters behind Verlander 3-0, the Twins easily taking the battle of the bullpens 4-0. Obviously, the those final four innings was the frustrating part, the normally dependable Veras and Benoit allowing the three runs which sent the game into extras.

Regardless of what went down tonight, and as bad as the loss was, it's just a bump in the road on the way to a division title. With five games remaining against bottom feeders, the Tigers will get the two wins they need (or losses by the Tribe, whichever combination comes first.).

I really don't see a 2006-style back in or 2009-style play in going down with this team. Especially with Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez having starts remaining. There's no need to freak out.

Now if the Tigers reach the weekend and nothing has changed, I'll join you in the panic.

Top of the first was the TTBDNS section the recap. Facing Mike Pelfrey, the Tigers put a runner in scoring position with two out, only to strand a pair.

Torii Hunter beat out a bouncer up the middle for a one out infield single. After a Miguel Cabrera ground out moved Hunter to second, Pelfrey walked Prince Fielder. But Victor Martinez could not come through with a two out hit, popping up in the middle of in the infield. Shortstop Pedro Florimon and third baseman Eduardo Escobar made the play more interesting than it needed to be, nearly colliding as Escobar made the catch.

The game still scoreless in the bottom of the second, Justin Verlander allowed the first two Twins he faced to reach, leading to a two out, bases loaded situation. Josmil Pinto (just one vowel away from "Punto") and Chris Parmelee opened the second with back-to-back singles.

Runners on first and second, Verlander broke out some wicked breaking balls in striking out ex-Tiger Clete Thomas and Escobar. Just as it appeared Verlander would pitch out of trouble, the inning was extended when he walked the .224 hitting Florimon on four pitches.

Alex Presley went fishing for a 2-2 breaking ball out of the zone, striking out to end the threat. But the walking of the light-hitting Florimon was damn frustrating and didn't help Verlander's pitch count, an elevated 47 after two innings.

Though Pelfrey entered the game with a 5.23 ERA, the Tigers were having little success with the veteran right-hander. They had a single in each of the first three innings which led to, well, nothing at all.

Verlander was averaging 20 pitches an inning through three. He was also averaging more than two strikeouts an inning. After striking out the side the third, eight of the nine Twins Verlander had retired were via the K.

Maybe so. But how many pitches would be required to reach a bajillion?

Bottom of four, Verlander remained on a K roll. He made it six in row and ten total striking out Pinto and Parmelee (MLB.com video). Thomas snapped the string, walking on a full count. Escobar followed with the Twins' third hit of the night, singling to left. Verlander stopped any possible rally in its tracks, busting Florimon on the fists with 97 MPH heat, which resulted in an inning ending pop up.

Through four full innings, Verlander was still averaging 20 pitches an inning (79), but had the ten strikeouts (and three walks) to show for it. As effective as Verlander had been, he was on pace to be pulled after six innings.

The Tigers' offense needed to get untracked in order to get Verlander a lead. As well as he was throwing, it wasn't as if Verlander would need a bushel basket full of runs.

Top of five, the Tigers finally strung together base hits. One out, Ramon Santiago and Austin Jackson reached base on back-to-back singles. Make it three straight hits, Hunter ripping a gapper to left center. The Twins caught a break when Hunter's drive bounced over the wall on one hop, costing the Tigers a run. The ground rule double plated Santiago, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.

A pair of runners in scoring position for Cabrera, he proceeded to have a very uncomfortable looking at bat. Cabrera would swing at ball four, striking out. One run was all the Tigers would get, Fielder out on a comebacker to Pelfrey.

Bottom of five, Pressley led off by going the other way on a low, outside fastball, slapping a liner into the gap in left center. Andy Dirks cut the ball off, but Pressley was able to leg out a two base hit.

Live by your legs, die by your legs.

One down after Verlander recorded his 11th strikeout, Brian Dozier hit a hard ground ball to short. For some reason Pressley felt the need to run on a ball hit in front of him, running into an out. Santiago made the easy throw to third, and Pressley was TOOTBLAN*.

*Thrown Out On The Basepaths Like A Nincompoop

Just as Rod Allen proclaimed Verlander was going to "pitch out of this jam," Josh Willingham singled to right. Rod was just a little ahead of himself, as Pinto popped up to end the fifth.

The score still 1-0 Tigers as the game entered the sixth, Pelfrey pitched himself into a two out jam via the base on balls. Infate worked a walk and stole second (YES, A STOLEN BASE BY A TIGER). Avila also drew a free pass, giving Santiago a shot at a two out RBI. Instead, the veteran utility man sent a can of corn to left. Inning over.

Verlander took the mound in the bottom half of the sixth, having put up some remarkable numbers.

One out, Thomas slapped a ground rule double down the left field line. Second base is where the former leader of "Clete's Cult" would remain. Escobar was retired on a soft liner to Fielder. Verlander ended the threat by recording strikeout number 12, throwing a 98 MPH fastball past Florimon.

Does any one not named Brian Kinney still want to move Verlander to the bullpen for the playoffs?

Twinkies manager Ron Gardenhire pulled Pelfrey after six innings. Taking over for the seventh was another ex-Tiger, Casey Fien. With one down, Hunter rapped another gapper, this one to right center for his second straight double. Cabrera didn't miss with a runner in scoring position in this at bat, smashing a line drive single to center. Tom Brookens aggressively waved Hunter around, as Pressley's throw was far off line. Cabrera's 137th RBI of the season increased the Tigers' lead to 2-0.

Fein wasn't fooling anyone. Fielder followed with a single to right. Martinez's double into the right field corner was placed well enough to allow a barely able to jog Cabrera to score from second, pushing the Tigers' lead to 3-0.

Runners on second and third, Fein was ordered to issue an intentional pass to Dirks. Five straight Tigers had reached base, loading the bases.

Gardenhire called in reliever Ryan Pressly to keep the inning from getting out of hand. He did just that, Infante grounding into a 4-6-3 Twin killing, ending the threat.

Little did we know that those two blown opportunities, the Tigers stranding two runners in scoring position with less than two otus in both the fifth and seventh innings would come back to bite them. HARD.

The Tigers holding a 3-0 run lead entering the bottom half of the seventh, Leyland elected to put the game in the hands of the bullpen. Verlander's excellent night was over after six innings and 107 pitches, shutting out the Twins on five hits, striking out 12. The dozen K's were the second most in a game for Verlander this season. The only game better was a 13 strikeout performance against the Pirates on May 27.

Drew Smyly took over, but didn't last long. Presley was able to beat Cabrera's throw on a slow roller to third (and you had to wonder if Don Kelly would have been quicker to the ball). Herrmann followed with a single to center. Runners on first and second with no one out, Leyland immediately called for bullpen help.

Al Alburquerque answered the phone. But it wasn't a bad thing! He entered the game channeling his inner Verlander. Alburquerque retired the next three Twins in order. He threw ten pitches, seven for strikes, using his slider to strike out two.

After seven full innings, the Tigers led 3-0, 14 Twins having gone down on strikes.

Bottom of eight, Jose Veras entered the game in setup duty for Joaquin Benoit. One down, Veras walked the .216 hitting Thomas. Late game walks rarely end well. It didn't in this case.

Veras allowed back-to-back doubles to the bottom of the order. Escobar doubled over the head of Dirks in left, driving in Thomas. Pinch hitter Ryan Doumit lined a double into the right field corner to plate Escobar.

Thanks to Veras, a game which felt well in hand was suddenly a nail-biter at 3-2.

Not wanting to fool around further, Leyland called on Benoit for a rare five out save. Presley bounced to first, Benoit receiving Fielder's toss, just beating him to the bag for the second out. Pinch runner Doug Bernier took third on the play. First pitch swinging, Chris Herrmann hit a drive to right which looked like trouble when it left bat, but Hunter got under it in plenty of time, making the catch for the third out.

The Tigers were unable to tack on an insurance run in the top of the ninth. The game rested on the right shoulder of Benoit. He was back on the mound in the op of the ninth looking to complete the five out save.

Benoit would get his five outs. Unfortunately, he needed six batters to do so. It was one Twin too many.

Dozier made sure the save didn't happen. Benoit's first pitch was over the meat of the plate, Dozier driving it over the wall in left center for a game tying solo shot. Dozier's 18th home run had knotted the game at 3-all. Benoit would retire the next three Twins, getting help from Kelly (who had entered the game as a pinch runner for Cabrera in the top of half of the inning) by making a nice play on a slow roller to  end the ninth.

We got us some free baseball, though no one was happy about it.

The Tigers entered extra innings with a 6-11 record, the Twins 8-7.  As shown by their under .500 play, the Tigers haven't had the best of luck past the ninth inning this season.

Twins' closer Glen Perkins pitched the top of the ninth for the Twins, and was back on the mound for the tenth. He walked Matt Tuiasosopo (pinch hitting for Dirks), but otherwise got out of the inning unscathed.

Leyland having burned up his good relievers and Bruce Rondon still out with a tender elbow, Jose Alvarez got the ninth inning assignment. He immediately served up a lead off single to pinch hitter Darin Mastroianni, who was moved to second via Escobar's sacrifice bunt. The free out ultimately saved the Tigers' bacon (temporarily).

First base open, pinch hitter Trevor Plouffe was issued an intentional walk. Presley hit a liner to left, Tuiasosopo getting turned around before making the catch.

Two on and two out, it was up to Herrmann, who was hitting .154 against lefties. The left-handed Alvarez made the most of his advantage, pitching out the jam on Herrmann's slow roller to Fielder. Bullet dodged, the game rolled on into the 11th.

The Tigers hadn't had a hit since Martinez doubled in the seventh. The sixth Twins' pitcher of the night, Anthony Swarzak, kept the string going with a 1-2-3 11th.

Luke Putkonen was the seventh Tigers' pitcher of the night. He would allow the lead off man to reach, which as we all know, doesn't end well.

It didn't tonight.

Dozier led off with a single, taking second as Willingham struck out on Putkonen's wild pitch.The wild pitch was the killer (or was it a bullpen owning several untrustworthy arms, I'm not sure which).

An ugly game ended in an ugly way. Pinto lined a single to right, Dozier racing around to score as Hunter's airmailed throw ended up somewhere west of St Paul. Not that he had a chance in Hell in throwing Dozier out, but it was a fitting end to a lousy final four innings.

Game over. Your final score is Twins 4, Tigers 3.

Tonight's loss drops the the Tigers to 91-66 (.580). The 93-63 (.596) Athletics are well on their way to a win on the left coast.  At the end of today's play, the Tigers will be three games back of the A's with five remaining . It might as well be four games, the A's holding the tie breaker, having won the season series.  As for the Central, the Tigers are 4 1/2 games up on the inactive Indians. If all goes well tomorrow, the Tigers will be celebrating a division title.

Game two in Minnesota has Doug Fister (13-9, 3.71 ERA) facing Twins' lefty Scott Diamond (6-11, 5.54 ERA).

Diamond was sent to Triple-A in August with a 5.52 ERA, not to be recalled until rosters expanded. In his last start Diamond took on the White Sox, earning his first victory since June. But what made the win interesting was Diamond didn't have a single strikeout, only the sixth time this season a pitcher fulled off the feat. In his past seven starts, Diamond has only struck out five batters in 35 1/3 innings. You have to go all the way back to July 1 to find a start where Diamond recorded more than one strike out.

In Fister's most recent start, he struck out ten Mariners, snapping a two game losing streak. He earned his 13th win by allowing four runs and scattering nine hits in 7 2/3 innings of work.

First pitch at Target Field will be at 8:10 PM.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

A still obviously banged up Miguel Cabrera being in the lineup did not go over well with much of the Tigers' fan base. After weakly grounding out in the first and barely bothering to jog it out, these were examples of the typical response.

Justin Verlander entered tonight's game with 195 strikeouts. He reached the 200 mark in the second, giving the Tigers two pitchers (the other being Max Scherzer) with 200 plus innings and strikeouts in the same season for just the fourth time. Previously, Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman accomplished the feat in three consecutive seasons, 1971 to 1973.

Chris Parmleee was mesmerized by Verlander's stuff, watching strike three zip by in the fourth.

Mesmerized_medium

As always, the conversation comes down to how tight Verlander wears his pants.

Evan an injured Miguel Cabrera can flatten baseballs, doing so on his seventh inning RBI single.

Miggy_medium

Jim Leyland, anti-fashion maven.

Leyland_medium

Definitely a fashion no-no.

Meanwhile, in the Tigers' radio booth...

If there one thing to take from tonight, the return of a dominant Verlander bodes well for the playoffs.

THREE ROARS:

Justin Verlander: A vintage performance. Wicked stuff, high pitch count, lots of strikeouts. Deserved better than a no-decision.

Torii Hunter: Three hits, two of those doubles, a run scored and an RBI.

Al Alburquerque: After the Tigers had increased lead to three, Alburquerque entered the game in the seventh with two on and no one out. He retired the next three Twins in order. At the time, it appeared this sequence locked up the game ... or so we thought.

BONUS ROAR:

Miguel Cabrera: Can't run a lick, still came through with two hits, a run scored and an RBI.

THREE HISSES:

Joaquin Benoit: Home runs have burned Benoit in the past. His first blown save of the season came off a big fly. Well, better a blown save now than in October.

Jose Veras: If you want to point fingers, point them at Veras. Facing the bottom of the order, Veras walked the light-hitting hitting Thomas and gave up a double to the light-hitting Escobar, both with averages under .230. At least Doumit, who also doubled, is hitting over .240.

Luke Putkonen: Single, strikeout, wild pitch, single, game over.

The Tigers' offense: Or lack thereof.

ROLL CALL:

Roll Call Info
Total comments 1,209
Total commenters 45
Commenter list Alex Baker, AwesomeJackson, BadCompany22, BigAl, C5wynn, DJ Screw, Dale S, Designated for Assignment, Fielder'sChoice, HookSlide, House by the Side of the Road, JJMcEazy, J_the_Man, Jacob30, Jim O'Dutchmen, Joaquin on Sunshine, MSUDersh, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, NCDee, SanDiegoMick, Scherzerblueeye, Singledigit, SpartanBoiler, SpartanHT, Starsailor, TN Ben, Tigerdog1, TomduhB, Verlanderful, adam.sanders.6661, aelix, ahtrap, bobrob2004, bowling255, frisbeepilot, josejose50, kirdo, kland83, knucklescarbone, lesmanalim, rbbaker, stevenyc, swish330, tbombach, texastigerfan
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/23/4762656/game-157-tigers-at-twins-8-10-pmhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/23/4764440/game-157-overflow

TOP TEN COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 SanDiegoMick 114
2 swish330 110
3 Singledigit 101
4 stevenyc 80
5 frisbeepilot 76
6 Scherzerblueeye 61
7 texastigerfan 55
8 rbbaker 50
9 SpartanHT 49
10 Joaquin on Sunshine 47

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
2 SanDiegoMick people, it's not would of.....it's would have!

GAME 156 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

In a game lacking much in the way of standout performances, Alex Avila's three hits carried him to the top of the PotG poll with 63% of the vote.

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