The Detroit Tigers entered the game on Labor Day trailing the first place Minnesota Twins by 43 games, with a winning percentage of .299, having been outscored by 269 runs for the season. By any definition, they are the worst team in baseball this season, while the Twins are closing in on a division title and a trip to the playoffs in October.
Detroit sent Jordan Zimmermann to the mound to face Jake Odorizzi. One of them a free agent bust with a $110 million price tag, and the other a free agent bargain who signed a one-year deal for $9.5 million last winter and was selected to the American League All-Star team. Odorizzi entered the game with a 3.56 ERA and a 14-6 record, while Zimmermann was 1-9 with a 6.24 ERA. He did have a 2.25 ERA over his last three starts, mind you.
The Twins got a pair of bloop singles in the first inning, but Zimmermann recorded two strikeouts and a ground ball to end the threat. Odorizzi struck out Victor Reyes and Willi Castro before Miguel Cabrera hit his 10th home run of the season, the 475th of his career, into the left field seats. Ronny Rodriguez grounded out to third base to end the inning.
Luis Arraez led off the second inning with a double down the third base line. After CJ Cron grounded out and Jake Cave flew out to center field, Ehir Adrianza, the ninth hitter in the Twins’ lineup, drilled the first pitch into the right- center field stands to put the Twins on top, 2- 1. Max Kepler then hit a comebacker to the mound, but Zimmermann threw the ball away. Polanco grounded out to second base to end the inning.
The Twins lead all major league teams with 268 home runs and 810 runs scored this season.
The Tigers were retired in order in the bottom of the second inning, with two more strikeouts for Odorizzi. Zimmermann worked around a two out single in the top half of the third to keep it at 2-1 Twins. A two out single by Reyes in the bottom of the third was the Tigers second hit, but he was stranded. Zimmermann retired the Twins in order for the first time in the top of the fourth frame. Detroit was retired in order in the bottom half of the inning. Still 2-1 for the Twins.
Minnesota put runners on the corners with two outs in the top of the fifth inning on a pair of singles by Polanco and Rosario, but Willians Austudillo hit a soft liner to second base to end the threat.
The Tigers got a pair of singles by Dawel Lugo and Jordy Mercer to start the bottom half of the fifth inning. Travis Demeritte broke out of a 1-for-21 slump with a base hit to score Lugo. With runners on first and second, Jake Rogers who is batting .110 sacrificed the runners to second and third. Reyes then sacrificed Mercer home on a fly to center field to put the Tigers ahead, 3-2. Willi Castro grounded out to first base to end the inning.
After Arraez led off the top of the sixth inning with a base hit for the Twins, Zimmermann got Cron on a fly ball to left field, and Cave grounded into a double play to end the inning.
Zimmermann finished with 6 innings, 2 runs on 9 hits, no walks and three strikeouts. Over his last four starts, he has worked 22 innings, allowing 6 runs on 18 hits, for a 2.45 ERA, with 17 strikeouts and just one walk.
Tyler Duffey relieved Odorizzi in the bottom of the sixth, and was promptly greeted by Cabrera who singled to right field to lead off the inning. After Rodriguez struck out swinging, Castro singled to shallow right field, sending Cabrera thundering to third base. A surprised Cave bobbled the ball, allowing Castro to take second on the play, putting runners on second and third with one out. Lugo and Mercer squandered the opportunity with back to back strikeouts to end the threat.
Gregory Soto came in for the Tigers to start the seventh inning. After striking out Adrianza, Max Kepler flied out to center field before Polanco and Cruz got a pair of two out singles. Rosario flied out to Reyes in left field to end the inning.
Reyes hit a two out double for Detroit in the bottom of the seventh, and attempted to score when Willi Castro singled deep into the shift in shallow right field (and Cabrera on deck) and was thrown out at the plate.
Buck Farmer took the mound for Detroit to start the eighth inning, and walked LaMonte Wade Jr, who was hitting for Astudillo. Arraez singled to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Farmer struck out Cron and Cave, then Adrianza hit a grounder to Castro that was botched, but was ruled a singe on an error by the official scorer.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Gardenhire replaced Farmer with Matt Hall to face the left handed hitting Kepler. Hall had allowed lefties an OPS of .923 and Kepler was hitting .293 vs left handers. Kepler promptly singled in two runs to put the Twins up, 4-3. The runs should have been unearned, or perhaps charged to Gardenhire, but that’s baseball.
Bryan Garcia, who was just called up from the minors, made his major league debut for Detroit in the top of the ninth inning. He got Cruz to pop out behind second base, and Rosario to ground out to first with a relay to Garcia covering the toss. With two outs, Wade Jr grounded out to first, this time with Rodriguez making the play himself.
Taylor Rogers retired the Tigers in order in the ninth to preserve the win for Minnesota.
The victory gives the Twins a record of 85-52 for the season, with a winning percentage of .620. They hold a 5-1/2 game lead over the second place Cleveland Indians and 44 games over last place Detroit. The Tigers now hit the road for a series in Kansas City.