Morneau’s 5 hits help Twins beat Tigers 7-6

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DETROIT (AP)—Justin Morneau narrowly missed one homer on Thursday afternoon.

He took advantage of a second chance.

Three innings after hitting a 425-foot double to the deepest part of Comerica Park, Morneau lined an 11th-inning homer off Freddy Dolsi (1-3) with one out into the right-field stands to give the Minnesota Twins a 7-6 win over the Detroit Tigers.

“I was looking for something to drive, and I just got enough of it,” he said. “That was a pretty good feeling rounding the bases.”

Morneau matched a career high with five hits, helping the Twins end a three-game losing streak.

“This was a big win,” he said. “We were down a couple in the ninth, they made a mistake and we took advantage of it.”

Minnesota has won 17 of 22 despite being swept at Fenway Park earlier in the week.

Matt Guerrier (5-4) pitched two innings for the victory, allowing Matt Joyce’s two-out double in the 11th. Guerrier then struck out Clete Thomas, finishing the win.

Detroit, which had won its previous three games, was trying to move three games over .500 for the first time since its 24-36 start.

“This was a good win for us after three tough losses in Boston,” Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Even when we fell behind, we kept making good swings.”

Morneau’s extra-inning heroics were made possible by two key ninth-inning mistakes by Tigers rookie right fielder Joyce.

Joyce made a key error that helped the Twins overcome a 6-4 deficit in the top of the ninth, then couldn’t get a bunt down in the bottom of the inning as the Tigers tried to avoid extra innings.

“This is definitely tough,” Joyce said. “I made two big mistakes and they cost us the game.”

Minnesota’s ninth-inning rally came off Todd Jones, who failed to convert a save for just the second time in 18 chances. Nick Punto singled leading off the ninth and scored on a single by Denard Span that skipped past Matt Joyce in right field. Span, who finished 4-for-4, took third on the error and scored on Joe Mauer’s pinch-hit sacrifice fly to tie the game.

“It just caught me between hops,” Joyce said. “I looked up to see if Punto was going to third, and it got by me.”

“The kid’s trying to make a play—it isn’t like he intentionally kicked the ball around,” Jones said. “But with a guy on third and no one out and Joe Mauer up, you’re going to have to be lucky, and I didn’t get lucky.”

Twins closer Joe Nathan walked the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth, bringing Joyce to the plate. He missed two bunt attempts before striking out. After another walk loaded the bases, Nathan struck out Jeff Larish and Ivan Rodriguez to end the inning.

“We got what we wanted, but we couldn’t put a ball in play and end the game,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We couldn’t get a fly ball.”

The Twins blew an early 2-0 lead.

Brendan Harris started the third with a double off Kenny Rogers and scored on Span’s one-out triple before Carlos Gomez made it 2-0 with an RBI groundout.

Rogers allowed three runs and nine hits in seven innings. He escaped a first-and-third, no-out jam in the fifth when Jeff Larish threw Punto out at the plate on Gomez’s grounder, Span was caught stealing third and Alexi Casilla grounded out.

Twins starter Kevin Slowey gave up six runs and nine hits in 3 2-3 innings.

Curtis Granderson hit a run-scoring double in the bottom of the third and Detroit scored five runs in the fourth. Joyce’s second homer in as many games started a stretch in which seven of eight batters got hits off Slowey. Ramon Santiago hit a two-run double.

“I kept the ball up and they hit it,” Slowey said. “I just didn’t make any adjustments at all.”

Casilla’s sacrifice fly made it 6-3 in the seventh, and Morneau made it a two-run game when he doubled and scored off Fernando Rodney in the eighth.

“We didn’t add on after the early runs, but you still have to close out a three-run lead with six outs to go,” Leyland said.

Notes

Morneau and Span combined to go 9-for-9 with four extra-base hits. … Minnesota loaded the bases in the 10th, but Casilla grounded out to end the inning. … Jeff Larish, called up from Triple-A Toledo before the game, went 3-for-5. … The Tigers activated Brandon Inge from the disabled list, but he did not play. SS Edgar Renteria also sat out the game after straining his hamstring on Wednesday.

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