Twins 6, Tigers 5
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Joe Mauer made his first major league home run a memorable one.
The rookie catcher connected on a 3-1 pitch from Esteban Yan (0-2), capping a two-out rally and giving the slumping Twins a 6-3 lead. Minnesota held on in the ninth for its first series victory after four straight defeats.
“I don’t know what it is about superstars, but they do those things,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Mauer, from St. Paul, Minn., was the No. 1 pick in the 2001 draft. He injured his knee in the second game of the season and returned from surgery Wednesday. He was 0-for-8 in three games until his home run Sunday.
With two outs in the eighth, Yan entered a tie game and gave up a double to Torii Hunter. Yan then hit Matthew LeCroy with a pitch before hanging a split-finger fastball that Mauer hit 408 feet to right field for his first career RBIs.
“Mauer got ahead in the count and that was the difference,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “Falling behind 3-1 is a hitter’s pitch, and instead of a base hit he got a three-run homer.”
Nathan allowed a leadoff homer to Jason Smith and an RBI single by Ivan Rodriguez, snapping his 21-inning scoreless streak. But the reliever retired Rondell White on a long fly and struck out Bobby Higginson to end it.
“I thought I had it, but that’s the name of the game—inches,” White said. “We battled and fell short today.”
Nathan fell behind Higginson 3-0 with the potential tying run at first base, but fought back to get the strikeout on a 3-2 slider.
“It was still a situation where I was trying to make my pitch and not give in to him, because he’s got some pop,” Nathan said.
“When I worked the count to two strikes, he’d seen five straight fastballs and was starting to get his timing down. I made up my mind before I even got on the rubber that I was going to throw him a slider, and fortunately it worked out for us.”
Tigers starter Nate Robertson blanked the Twins for five innings, running Minnesota’s scoreless drought to 14 innings, its longest of the season. But after Cristian Guzman led off the sixth with a single, Lew Ford hit an 0-1 pitch into the left-field seats for his seventh homer.
Two outs later, LeCroy jumped on a low fastball and drove it to left-center for his fourth homer and a 3-2 Twins lead.
Minnesota starter Carlos Silva gave up three runs and nine hits in 7 2-3 innings. He lost his chance to earn the win when Inge singled on Romero’s first pitch, driving in Higginson to tie it.
“The disappointing part of the day for me was taking (Silva) out of the game and he doesn’t get a win,” Gardenhire said. “He pitched his tail off. He makes pitches when he has to.”
The Tigers hit six doubles off Silva and had a runner in scoring position in every inning but the seventh.
Detroit scored first on Rodriguez’s RBI double with two outs in the third inning, then doubled its lead in the fifth with the help of Minnesota’s defense.
Robertson gave up three runs on seven hits, walked none and struck out fivein seven innings.
LeCroy left after being hit on the right wrist by Yan’s pitch in the eighth inning, but X-rays were negative and he said after the game that he’d be fine. … Twins 1B Doug Mientkiewicz batted leadoff for the first time in his six-year career. … Left-handed hitters were batting only .140 against Robertson going into the game. The Twins had four lefties in the starting lineup; they were a combined 1-for-13 against Robertson, with the only hit going to Mientkiewicz on a questionable scoring decision in the seventh. … Ford hit third for the first time in his career. … Tigers OF Dmitri Youngmissed his second straight game with a strained calf.