MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—The Detroit Tigers left Yankee Stadium this week with the hope and momentum of a three-game sweep, but Jim Leyland was cautious.
Not over the hump yet, their seen-it-all manager said.
As usual, the boss was right.
Joe Mauer capped a Minnesota rally from a six-run, first-inning deficit, slapping a two-run single up the middle in the seventh to lift the Twins past the Tigers 7-6 on Sunday for their fifth straight win.
“I think that’s huge for our pitching staff, to show that we’re still going to go out there and try to put up runs for ‘em,” Mauer said.
The Tigers tricked Kenny Rogers into thinking he was getting that kind of support. He retired the first 11 batters he faced and should’ve been out of the seventh with a 6-3 lead, but third baseman Carlos Guillen let a routine two-out groundball hit by Nick Punto roll off his glove and through his legs.
The Tigers had only four hits after the opening frame.
“We’re swinging at bad pitches. Maybe we’re pressing,” Guillen said. “We’ve got to be consistent, and we’re not consistent. We’ve been giving too many bats away.”
Bothered by that inconsistency, Leyland promised before the game to drastically shake up the lineup beginning Monday at home against Boston. After the game, he declined to specify.
“I’m not talking about that. There will be changes tomorrow,” Leyland said.
Though the Tigers were fourth in the league in runs entering the game, their star-stacked offense is still underperforming. One of their limitations, frustrating Leyland, has been the lack of speed and small-ball executions like hit-and-run plays.
Curtis Granderson started the game with a home run. No fundamentals necessary there.
As Bonser struggled through a 45-pitch first inning—four consecutive singles followed Granderson’s shot—the Tigers built their big lead and padded it on a wild pitch on strike three to Ivan Rodriguez that allowed him to reach.
Magglio Ordonez, Guillen and Edgar Renteria each drove in runs with singles in the inning, and Mauer’s short throw skipped over second base while Rodriguez was trying to steal—allowed another one to score.
“There was a couple in the first inning where I couldn’t believe what they did with it,” Bonser said. “Couple curveballs here, fastballs, they were just blooping it in and I was like, ‘What am I supposed to do?”’
Be patient, apparently. Acting manager Scott Ullger, who said he came within a batter or two of pulling Bonser in the first, told the right-hander to forget about it and start over.
“You come in and say, ‘There’s a lot of game left,”’ Ullger said. “Well, there’s the WHOLE game left. So just chip away.”
Bonser followed with a five-pitch second inning.
“That’s not good,” said Leyland, who otherwise shrugged off Guillen’s error and the Twins’ rally as just part of the game—especially on the artificial turf at the Metrodome.
Matt Guerrier (2-1) earned the victory with two scoreless innings in relief of Bonser, who recovered nicely after the six-run first to complete six innings with five strikeouts and no walks. One of the runs against him was unearned.
Joe Nathan picked up the save, his 11th in as many attempts, with a scoreless ninth to give the Twins a sweep of this homestand of five intradivision games. They moved into first place in the AL Central on Saturday and now lead the White Sox by 1 1/2 games. They play three games in Chicago this week.
“That’s good,” Ullger said. “Keep it going.”
Rogers, who has an 11-3 career record against the Twins, didn’t allow a baserunner until Mauer’s two-out double in the fourth. He scored on a single by Morneau. Punto’s double brought home two more in the fifth, cutting the lead to 6-3.
“Kenny was tremendous, but we didn’t add on runs,” Leyland said.
Maybe the new-look lineup will do that better.
Mauer has a hit in 14 of his last 15 games, batting .403 (23-for-57) with 12 runs, six walks and nine RBIs during that span. … Granderson hit his 15th career leadoff homer, putting him third on Detroit’s all-time list behind Lou Whitaker (23) and Dick McAuliffe (19) in just his third full major league season. … Gomez was back in the lineup after a bad headache stemming from a thrown ball that hit him in the head during a stolen-base attempt on Friday. … Guillen, who began the season at first, made his sixth error. Tigers third basemen have nine errors, tied for most in the majors with Cincinnati. … Twins manager Ron Gardenhire, who went to be with his family in Oklahoma following the sudden death of his older brother, Mike, is expected to rejoin the team in Chicago on Wednesday.