With the series on the line, the Tigers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory against the Minnesota Twins on Sunday. The offense went cold against Bailey Ober after a brief outburst in the third, and a key defensive mistake from Nick Maton cost the Tigers late as the Twins scratched out an unearned run to tie the game late and then won in ten innings.
Things started off at a pretty snappy pace. Michael Lorenzen allowed a Edouard Julien leadoff single to start the game. Donovan Solano lined out, and Carlos Correa pulled a grounder to third where Nick Maton started an inning ending double play. Zack McKinstry and Spencer Torkelson flew out, and then Kerry Carpenter lined out to Michael A. Taylor in center field to end the first.
After a quick second inning, Lorenzen allowed a single to catcher Christian Vazquez to open the third. A pair of solid fly outs followed before Donavan Solano got a sweeper up in the zone and mashed it for a two-run homer. Lorenzen struck out Correa to end the half inning and the Tigers immediately responded.
Matt Vierling slapped a ground ball through the right side for a leadoff single and Jake Rogers pulled a line drive to left for a double to move Vierling to third. Jake Marisnick struck out but McKinstry got a first fastball on the inner edge and ripped it to right field for a two-run double. Torkelson flew out to center, but Carpenter came through with a line drive single to right to score McKinstry. 3-2 Tigers, and it would stay that way for quite a while.
After exchanging runs in the third, things settled back down for a couple innings, but both teams had some opportunities. Lorenzen allowed a leadoff single to Royce Lewis to start the fourth, and then walked Willi Castro after striking out Kyle Farmer. However he popped up Joey Gallo to shortstop, complete with Javier Báez settling underneath it and then letting it drop to get a gasp out of the crowd after the infield fly rule was called. Christian Vasquez drilled a ground ball just left of second base and Báez then made a spectacular diving stop and was able to get up and fire to first in time to get the Twins’ catcher at first.
El Mago's latest feat: Turning a good play into a great one. pic.twitter.com/F0bb4eV8No— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) June 25, 2023
Nick Maton immediately dumped a single into center field as Michael A. Taylor read it as hard hit off the bat and got a terrible jump. However, Ibáñez popped out, and Vierling struck out as Maton tried to steal second, where he was pretty easily cut down by Vasquez.
The Twins quickly generated another threat when Edouard Julien doubled to right field with one out. Solano singled back up the middle but Julien had to wait to make sure it got through and could only advance to third. That prompted a Chris Fetter visit as Correa came to the dish, and he had the right plan. Correa pulled a hard grounder straight to Báez for a simple 6-4-3 double play to escape the inning. Correa was not thrilled with himself.
The Tigers couldn’t take any momentum from escaping another jam, as Rogers, Marisnick, and McKinstry struck out in the bottom of the fifth.
Will Vest took over in the sixth, allowing a Lewis leadoff single. He bounced back, popping up Kyle Farmer and getting Castro on a line out to Marisnick in center field. With Gallo at the dish, A.J. Hinch turned to Tyler Holton. The lefties first appearance in a week went well as he carved Gallo up with a sharp slider down and away to end the top half of the sixth.
Torkelson led off with a drive to center that Taylor hauled in. Carpenter walked, but Báez struck out and Maton flew out to right field.
Holton struck out Vazquez and Julien for a quick seventh inning and an impressive outing after sitting out since June 18.
Right-hander Jordan Balazovic took over for the Twins in the bottom of the seventh. He struck out Ibáñez but walked Vierling. Jake Rogers lined a ball down the right field line but Gallo made a pretty great diving catch for the second out. Marisnick tried to surprise the Twins with a bunt first pitch, fouled it off, but then singled anyway. Rocco Baldelli went back to the pen and brought in Brent Headrick as Hinch pulled McKinstry in favor of Zack Short. Shorty struck out, sending us to the eighth.
Jose Cisnero took over from Holton and quickly got Solano to ground out, though a wild throw from Nick Maton forced Torkelson to come well up the line to make the catch and swipe tag on Solano. Cisnero struck out Correa with a nasty right-on-right changeup, but then walked Royce Lewis.
The managerial cat and mouse game got particularly interesting as Baldelli pinch hit Max Kepler in for Kyle Farmer. That prompted Hinch to turn to Chasen Shreve to handle the lefty, and that move prompted Baldelli to pull Kepler and switch to Ryan Jeffers. Jeffers pulled a single through the left side of the infield, but Shreve got Willi Castro to pull a routine ground ball to third that should’ve ended the inning. Instead Maton uncorked another wild throw that Torkelson had no chance to get glove on. Lewis scored, tying the game at 3-3, while Jeffers advanced to third and Castro to second. Baldelli put in Byron Buxton to hit for Joey Gallo, but Shreve got him to ground out to shortstop.
Maton hasn’t been a particularly good defender anyway, but the struggles at the plate look like they’re bleeding into the rest of his game. The Tigers didn’t play a particularly good game overall, but the pitching was again good enough to win. This time a crucial error let another win slip away.
Brock Stewart took over in the bottom of the eighth for the Twins. Torkelson flew out to the warning track in right center and Carpenter and Báez both struck out.
Hinch turned to Alex Lange to hold the Twins in place in the top of the ninth. He got it done, but it was an adventure that had Rogers really working behind the plate to help his closer throw strikes. Lange got Vazquez to ground out, and Taylor lined out to Marisnick in center. However, Lange then walked Julien and Solano, unable to locate his fastball while the Twins laid off the heavy dose of curveballs. That brought Chris Fetter out for another chat. Lange got ahead of Correa by spotting a curve and then a fastball for a strike, but he missed with the next two and had to put a curveball over the plate. Correa drilled it to left, but fortunately Ibáñez was there to make the running catch and turn the Twins away.
Griffin Jax walked Matt Vierling with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but Jake Rogers grounded out to send this to extra innings. One of these two teams was in for an unhappy flight to their next series.
Hinch turned to Brendan White in the tenth, with Correa starting the inning on second. Royce Lewis promptly singled to left to score Correa and took second on the play. Jeffers dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move Lewis to third. That brought Willi Castro to the dish, and the former Tiger lined a single over Short to plate Lewis. Castro then stole second, his 14th steal on the season, and while he looked out, the replay review confirmed the call on the field. Vazquez sprayed a ground ball through the right side of the infield and Castro raced home to make it 6-3. Not good.
Vazquez got caught trying to take second, ending the half inning, but the Twins held a three-run lead and could now turn to one of the most dominant relievers in the game in Jhoan Duran.
The Tigers went 1-2-3 in the bottom half, and that was that.
The Tigers now head out to Texas for four with the Texas Rangers. If they put together a good series down there they could right the ship, but losing to the Twins this way put a big hole in the Tigers’ balloon. Matt Boyd will take on Andrew Heaney on Monday night at 8:05 p.m. ET.