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Tigers 5, Twins 3 (Gm 1) Twins 8, Tigers 3 (Gm 2): A split doubleheader calls for a split recap

Spencer Turnbull and Ronny Rodriguez remain as bright spots on a beleaguered Tigers’ roster.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins - Game One Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

It was a long day full of dingers, new arrivals, and sudden departures, by ejection to be specific, as the Tigers and Twins locked up to split a day-night double-header in the Twin Cities. All in all, nine home runs were hit over the course of two games as Target Field lived up to its reputation. Considering they sent a pair of rookie starters to make their major league debut in the nightcap, the Tigers will take the split.

Tigers 5, Twins 3 (Gm 1)

Game one featured another quality outing from Spencer Turnbull. The big right-hander was squeezed often throughout the contest, and one could blame catcher John Hicks if they chose. You can blame Turnbull for being just wild enough at times not to receive the benefit of the doubt on some borderline calls. As for Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, he placed the blame on home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt and was ejected for some choice words in the third inning. This was of course a familiar sight to Twins fans, and Gardy’s ejection was met with lusty cheers from the Target Field faithful.

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins - Game Two Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

The tight zone certainly didn’t help Turnbull, as he accumulated a season high four walks. However, once again, he proved difficult to square up and mixed in quality curveballs and sliders to rack up his share of strikeouts as well.

To a substantial degree, this game belonged to the white-hot Ronny Rodriguez. The Tigers’ shortstop mashed a rocket of a solo home run to center field in the second inning, and came back to launch another moonshot to left in the fourth inning. Twins’ starter Michael Pineda actually pitched a decent game by Ronny certainly had his number. Pineda left more a than a few breaking balls in the strike zone and Rodriguez made him pay. Who knows how long this will last, but Rodriguez has really bailed a feeble offense out repeatedly over the past two weeks. Brandon Dixon also got into the act with a solo shot of his own, his second of the year, in the second inning.

As it was, Turnbull took a two run lead into the sixth. Then things got a little weird. Twins catcher Jason Castro was hit by a pitch with two outs in the inning. The Tigers challenged, arguing that the ball didn’t actually hit him, and bench coach Steve Liddle’s decision initially paid off. Replay showed that the pitch hit the knob of the bat. Castro wasn’t touched by the pitch, and so he was recalled to the batter’s box. Unfortunately, the hit-by-pitch was a better option as Castro turned and mashed a 2-2 slider at the bottom of the zone over the right field wall to bring the Twins within one run.

Turnbull finished with two runs against in 5 23 innings of work. He threw 111 pitches, easily his highest total on the season, as the Tigers really needed innings from their starters with the bullpen already taxed beyond its capacity. The inefficiency and deep counts resulted in four walks, and continues to be the thing holding Red Bull back from settling in as a surprisingly sound mid-rotation arm. Still, he’s hard to square up, allowing just four hits, and he punched out six Twins on the day.

The Tigers one-run lead held up into the eighth. Joe Jimenez allowed a solo shot to CJ Cron to knot the game at three apiece. He got Jake Cave swinging to record the second out of the frame, but then walked Jonathan Schoop and allowed a Jason Castro double before getting out of the inning on an Ehire Adrianza ground ball.

Fortunately, Jimenez’s teammates were right there to pick him up. John Hicks mashed a solo shot to left field to recapture the lead in the top of the ninth. Gordon Beckham followed with a two-out double, and then scored on a single from Christin Stewart.

Shane Greene came on and appeared to have given up a single to Max Kepler to leadoff the inning, but Kepler was out upon replay review. Jorge Polanco quickly replaced Kepler with a single, but Greene had little trouble retiring the final two hitters to record his 14th save, punching out Eddie Rosario to end it.

Performances of the game

Ronny Rodriguez: Another day at the office with a pair of home runs for the utility infielder as he continues to swing a hot bat.

Spencer Turnbull: The Tigers would like to see a more efficient version of Turnbull, but he continues to be effective. His 2.42 ERA continues to hold up among the top ten for qualified starters.

John Hicks: Hicks had trouble getting strikes called around the edges of the zone, and didn’t appear to be doing Turnbull many favors, though he’s not an easy guy to catch, but Hicks redeemed himself nicely with a go-ahead home run that proved to be the game-winner.

Twins 8, Tigers 3 (Gm 2)

It was well that the Tigers managed to pull out the first game of the doubleheader, because the nightcap was fraught with peril. The Tigers planned to piggyback a pair of starters making their major league debuts, and Gregory Soto certainly looked overmatched, while Nick Ramirez held his own. Ultimately, they fell to the Twins 8-3.

For symmetry on this day of ejections and dingers, Miguel Cabrera managed to get himself ejected from the dugout in the first inning of this one. Both teams were unhappy with the strike zone in both games, and the hook looked short-tempered on the part of home plate umpire Chad Whitson. Still, Cabrera getting tossed left the Tigers without their DH with a pair of rookies on the mound and needing all the offense they could manage. Not an auspicious beginning.

For several years now, the odds that Soto was going to reach the major leagues as a starter have grown long. By and large, he’s viewed as a future reliever because of ongoing struggles with control and an inconsistent breaking ball that appeared to have backed up a bit over the past year. Or perhaps it was just nerves. In the end, Soto did manage to debut in the Show as a starter, but things didn’t go very well.

Soto was hit hard and couldn’t command the strikezone with any consistency. He showcased a good fastball, and was on just three days of rest, but ultimately gave up a lot of hard contact. He gave up two runs in each of his first two frames to put the Tigers in a hole they couldn’t climb out of against Twins’ starter Kohl Stewart. Soto did settle down in the third and fourth inning, but his pitch count was already sky high when things fell apart in the fifth.

In the meantime, the Tigers did get on the board, as Jeimer Candelario cracked a two-run shot in the second inning that briefly tied things at two apiece. With two aboard, Brandon Dixon came through in the third with a single to score Christin Stewart. At that point it was 4-3 Twins, and that was as close as the Tigers would get.

For reasons that are inexplicable to your friendly recapper, the Tigers sent Soto back out in the fifth with his pitch count near 80, on short rest, and in the midst of his major league debut. In fairness, he’d settled down the two previous innings, but it was still a bad decision, as the Twins quickly illustrated for us.

Nelson Cruz led off the ill-fated fifth inning with a single, and then Eddie Rosario easily beat the Tigers’ shift with a bunt toward third base that Jeimer Candelario had no chance to make a play on. CJ Cron followed by taking a 90 mph fastball on the inner edge and turning on it to smoke a line drive just over the wall in left, making it 7-3 Twins.

Once Soto had proven they’d pushed him too far, the Tigers turned too late to left-hander Nick Ramirez for some innings. He cleaned up the fifth for Soto, and while he allowed a solo shot to Marwin Gonzalez in the sixth, he was certainly effective. He located his 90 mph fastball and a nice 79-80 mph changeup well, making the most of a somewhat meager looking repertoire to get quite a few whiffs and keep the Twins off balance. He’s probably going to stick around for a while. Soto was returned to the Double-A Erie SeaWolves after the game, as expected.

Unfortunately, the offense just couldn’t get anything going after the third inning. Nick Castellanos tripled with two outs in the fifth but was stranded at third. The Tigers put two on in the seventh on a walk to JaCoby Jones, followed by a Niko Goodrum single, but they were stranded as well. The outs came quick and the Tigers didn’t really put the Twins under any pressure with long counts. Their half innings seemed to come and go faster and faster as the game progressed. In the end, Tyler Duffey came on in the ninth and struck out the side to end a long day with a win for either side.

Performances of the game

Jeimer Candelario: The Tigers third baseman is playing great defense, but just hasn’t got into a groove at the plate yet this season. Hopefully the two-run shot, his second, that he launched in the second inning can be built on.

Nick Ramirez: It was a very long road for the 29-year-old Ramirez to finally reach the majors after converting to pitching just three years ago. He acquitted himself well with a strong four innings of work. Ramirez allowed a solo shot, and six hits overall, but struck out five to just one walk allowed.