They also remember how they built such a big lead in the first place.
Brandon Inge’s 10th-inning double off Joe Nathan drove in new addition Timo Perez, pushing the Tigers past the Twins 4-3 on Thursday to complete a three-game sweep of the defending AL Central champions.
“We learned a lot last year. We learned from our mistakes and the things we did right,” said Inge, who also had an RBI single in a three-run seventh. “I think we’re more persistent. We’re not going to give up. You can call it being gamers or mental toughness. We’re going to play hard—whether it’s nine innings or 20 innings.”
“We’re going to keep believing in ourselves and playing hard, and we’ll see where we go from here,” manager Ron Gardenhire said, the only sound coming from a downcast clubhouse.
The Twins trailed by the same nine-game margin as late as Aug. 12 last year, but they were playing so much better then.
Though this was their fourth consecutive one-run loss to the Tigers and they had their share of bad bounces this week, the lineup is lagging behind—and another strong pitching performance was wasted.
“It’s frustrating right now,” said center fielder Torii Hunter, who was held out of the lineup with a strained hamstring but appeared as a pinch hitter. “Hopefully we can get something going, and maybe we’ll pick up somebody that can get us going, too.”
Hunter cocked his head and flashed a mischievous smile at the television cameras around his cubicle after that last line, a subtle plea to general manager Terry Ryan to acquire another hitter before the trading deadline.
Missing Hunter and right fielder Michael Cuddyer (jammed thumb), the Twins took their first lead of the series when Justin Morneau hit an RBI single against Tigers starter Jeremy Bonderman in the sixth. They tacked on two more runs in the seventh to tie it at 3, but that was it.
Kubel ended an 0-for-16 slump with a double to start the fifth, but his teammates couldn’t even advance him to third—let alone drive him in. Bonderman gave up nine hits and three runs in 6 2-3 innings. He struck out six and walked one.
“The hitters have done enough for us that we can show up one series and pitch,” Jones said.
The Tigers had a little luck, too.
Morneau started the eighth with a double and was on third when Bobby Seay’s wild pitch took an unlikely bounce off the backstop and came back to catcher Mike Rabelo. Morneau stopped his dash for home short, retreated and jerked his shoulder into Rabelo’s throw. Third base umpire Gary Darling called him out for interference, minutes before Kubel stroked a single up the middle.
The soft-spoken Baker—who gave up 10 hits and three runs in 6 1-3 innings — refused to concede that the Tigers are a better team than the Twins.
“I’m proud of the way we played,” he said. “We came back from being down. We just didn’t get the breaks.”
Perez, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Toledo before the game, was filling in for left fielder Marcus Thames—who went to the disabled list with a pulled hamstring. Perez walked to start the 10th against Nathan (3-2), moved up on a sacrifice bunt and came around to score on Inge’s double.
That gave the Tigers their 17th win in their last 21 road games. They’re 10-2 in their last 12 games overall.
“It’s one of those freak things that happened, and fortunately it happened for us,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We did it, and we’re glad to get out of here, believe me.”
Polanco is the leading active hitter in the majors against Minnesota, .359 in 39 games. … Bonderman is only 1-5 with a 6.46 ERA in eight career starts at the Metrodome. … Bartlett threw low to Morneau on a second-inning grounder and was charged with his 17th error in his 85th game this year—though Morneau could have scooped the ball. Bartlett made 13 errors in 99 games last season.