Led by the bats of Eugenio Suarez, Victor Martinez, and Ian Kinsler, the Detroit Tigers rode a seven-run third inning to a big lead, yet were forced to hold on late in a 12-9 victory over the Minnesota Twins. Given a huge lead, Detroit's bullpen blew up, allowing six runs over the final three innings to turn a blowout into a save situation.
Anibal Sanchez (W, 3-2) was the beneficiary of something he has lacked for long stretches - run support. Sanchez earned his first win in three weeks by pitching into the seventh, charged with three runs on four hits, walking two and striking out six over 6 1/3 innings.
As what usually seems to happen at the worst time, Tigers relievers once again had issues. Manager Brad Ausmus went to his bullpen with the Tigers up 11-2. Evan Reed, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, and Ian Krol struggled, allowing six runs (along with allowing an inherited run to score) and eight hits in a combined 2 1/3 innings.
Amazingly, thanks to baseball's arcane rules, Krol earned the first save of his big league career.
Twins starter Samuel Deduno (L, 2-5) was pulled after 2 2/3 innings, taking the loss. When the dust had settled in the third inning and the inherited runners had scored, Deduno had been charged with seven runs and seven hits, striking out three and walking two. Deduno needed 41 pitches to record two outs in the third inning before being replaced by Anthony Swarzak.
The Twins' bullpen wasn't much better than Detroit's. Four relievers combined to give up five runs on 12 hits over the final 5 1/3 innings.
One day after being shutout on six hits, the Tigers rocked Twins' pitching for 19 hits, ten for extra bases. The 12 runs and 19 hits are both season highs for Detroit. Considering the bullpen's struggles, they needed a huge game from their bats. Ian Kinsler had three hits and three RBIs on the afternoon. Martinez also came through with three hits, one his 17th home run of the season, adding two RBIs. Suarez continued his hot start by chipping in three hits and two RBIs. Nick Castellanos also remained hot with three base hits, driving in a run. Slumping Torii Hunter had a pair of doubles and two runs driven in.
The Twins' offense woke up a little too late, falling ten runs down before plating eight runs over the final three innings, making the game far more interesting than it should have been. Eric Fryer led the way with three hits and two runs scored in his first game of the season. Danny Santana added two hits and three RBIs. Brian Dozier hit his 15th home run in the ninth, a two-run shot capping off the scoring.
When does a win not feel like a win? When the bullpen turns a huge lead into a save situation.
From 11-1 to 12-9. A much-needed Tigers win underscores the need for a better bullpen.
— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 14, 2014
Anibal Sanchez: Another solid outing for the Tigers' most consistent starter. Before tiring in the seventh, Sanchez was on cruise control, shutting down the Twins while the Tigers were actually giving him run support.
Eugenio Suarez: The rookie shortstop continues to hit. Suarez likely had the best third inning of his life. He led off the frame by drilling his third home run of the season (MLB.com video). After the Tigers had batted around, Suarez drove in a second run with an RBI double, and tacked on a triple leading off the bottom of the seventh. Suarez had a shot at the cycle, but bounced into a fielder's choice in the eighth, finishing his day a single short.
Victor Martinez: Hit the ball hard all afternoon with three hits and two RBIs, ending his day a triple short of the cycle and just a few feet short of having four home runs. Martinez started his day with a rare infield single, then went yard for the 17th time in 2014 (MLB.com video) with a third-inning two-run shot. Martinez just missed homering in his next three at-bats. A pair of long fly balls died in front of the fence, but Martinez capped off his big day by doubling off the top of the left field fence in the seventh.
Torii Hunter at the plate: Entered today on a 1-for-13 skid, hitting just .239/.267/.399 since the start of May. Hunter doubled in his first two at-bats and added a sacrifice fly, driving in a pair of runs.
Ian Kinsler: Also entered today's game in a brutal slump; 1-for-20 over his last five games and hitting .132/.157/.309 over his last 16. Kinsler broke out with three hits, three RBIs, a run scored and a stolen base.
Nick Castellanos: On June 1, Castellanos was hitting .235/.282/.355. A 3-for-5 day has the rookie third baseman up to .273/.312/.405 on the season.
Giving the Twins a dose of their own medicine: The third inning was #TwinsHit central, the Tigers finding themselves on the other side of a "death by papercuts" inning. Bloops found green, infield singles drove in runs, choppers down the line went for extra bases. It's been a long time since the Tigers had the ball bounce in their direction.
Austin Jackson: After a May swoon, Jackson had started to hit once the calender moved to June. But he's slumping again, 1-for-9 over the last three games. Today Jackson was 1-for-5 with two strikeouts. He needed an eighth-inning single to avoid becoming the only Tiger to not reach base.
Torii Hunter in right field: In one of the worst defensive plays you'll ever see, Hunter completely whiffed trying field Eric Fryer's line-drive single on one hop. Hunter was charged with a two-base error on the play, extending the seventh inning and ultimately costing the Tigers a run. Even for Hunter, who has been awful defensively this season, it was an egregiously bad play.
Evan Reed: Struggled to throw strikes after taking over for Sanchez in the seventh. He was pulled after recording just one out, having allowed an inherited run to score, along with being charged with a run of his own, on two singles and walk.
Phil Coke: Cleaned up Reed's mess in the seventh, but then left one of his own in the eighth. Tagged with three hits and three runs in an inning of work.
Al Alburquerque: Could not record an out in the eighth, allowing two hits and a walk before being pulled.
Ian Krol: Served up a two-run home run with two out in the ninth, putting a bow on what was a God-awful day for Detroit's bullpen.
The lack of true middle relief: The Tigers are overusing key bullpen pieces. There should be no reason for Alburquerque and Krol to pitch in what should have remained a blow out. But Reed and Coke were unable to shut down the Twins. Not that Alburquerque and Krol were much better, but still.
Joe Nathan: Just because of this -
The mob consensus response to "let Nathan pitch now, in garbage time" is a resounding "[bad word] Joe Nathan."
— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 14, 2014
FOX Sports 1: For feeling it was necessary to show clips of Game 163. A game from FIVE years ago, with most of the main participants not having anything to do with today's game. And the less said about ridiculous in-game dugout interviews, the better.
STREAKS AND STATS:
Torii Hunter's first-inning double was his first extra base hit in seven games and his second since May 28. Hunter doubled again in the third, giving him his first multiple extra base hit game since May 27. Coming into today, Hunter has slugged just .250 over his last 13 games.
Hunter's two doubles give him 456 in his career. That ties him with Tigers' first base coach Omar Vizquel for 95th overall in MLB history.
Eugenio Suarez hit his third home run of the season in the third inning. He has as many home runs in 22 career plate appearances than his predecessors at short, Danny Worth and Andrew Romine, have in a combined 601.
Suarez is the sixth Tigers player to homer in three of his first eight career games. The last was Alex Avila in 2009.
Suarez is the first Tigers player to have multiple extra base hits in an inning since Magglio Ordonez on August 12, 2007 versus the A's.
Anibal Sanchez has suffered greatly from a lack of run support this season. Over his last three starts (all no-decisions for Sanchez and losses for the Tigers) the Tigers scored seven runs total. The Tigers equaled that total in the third inning.
Seven runs is the most the Tigers have scored in one inning this season. They also accomplished the feat against these same Twins, also in the third inning, on April 25.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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