Detroit Tigers blow key opportunities in 3-2 loss to Minnesota Twins

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The Minnesota Twins nearly handed the Detroit Tigers a victory in Monday's makeup game.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Eric Haase delivered a two-out infield single. Reliever Alex Colome fielded the ball, but he threw it past first baseman Miguel Sano. On the next play, Colome pulled Sano off the bag on Harold Castro's weak grounder, putting runners on the corners.

But Robbie Grossman flied out to right field for a 3-2 loss at Comerica Park.

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Tigers center fielder Derek Hill passes Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers after a solo home run during the third inning on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Tigers center fielder Derek Hill passes Twins catcher Ryan Jeffers after a solo home run during the third inning on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.

In the seventh inning, though, the Tigers (62-70) missed another chance to capitalize.

Castro singled up the middle with one out. Victor Reyes kept attacking reliever Jorge Alcala, hitting an infield single to second baseman Jorge Polanco. On the receiving end of the play, Sano fumbled the baseball. Recognizing the situation, Castro took off for third base.

This is an aggressive style manager AJ Hinch wants from his team, but Sano quickly recovered. His strong throw eliminated Castro for the second out, and the ensuing batter, Zack Short, popped out to conclude the inning.

Monday's contest — rescheduled from the July 16 postponed doubleheader — was kept close by a pair of rookie starters: Casey Mize for the Tigers and Bailey Ober for the Twins.

Mize allowed three runs on five hits and one walk over six innings. He struck out four batters and threw 51 of 79 pitches for strikes. Ober, a 6-foot-9 righty, gave up two runs on five hits across six innings. He avoided free passes and struck out five in his 77-pitch performance.

Alex Lange pitched two scoreless innings out of the bullpen, throwing 14 of 29 pitches for strikes. He showed improved command in the eighth inning, striking out Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco with changeups.

Miguel Del Pozo took over for the ninth but only threw two pitches before a comebacker from Max Kepler hit him in the face. He departed from the game with athletic trainer Doug Teter while holding a towel over his face to stop the bleeding. Joe Jimenez completed the ninth.

Tigers pitcher Casey Mize catches a new ball after giving up a two-run home run to Twins designated hitter Josh Donaldson during the fourth inning on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Tigers pitcher Casey Mize catches a new ball after giving up a two-run home run to Twins designated hitter Josh Donaldson during the fourth inning on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.

The Tigers cut their deficit to 3-2 in the fifth inning. That's when Short dropped in a one-out RBI bloop single between center fielder Buxton and shortstop Andrelton Simmons. (After leading off with a double and advancing to third base, Castro scored easily.)

A long 4th inning

Mize was incredibly efficient with his pitch count.

The 24-year-old needed 29 pitches — 11 in the first, seven in the second and 11 in the third — for three perfect innings, a product of the Twins being aggressive and Mize making pitches. The first batter in the fourth, Luis Arraez, flied out on a first-pitch slider. Mize had retired 10 in a row to begin his outing.

The Twins then plated three runs.

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Twins designated hitter Josh Donaldson, right, is greeted by Jorge Polanco after they both scored on Donaldson's two-run home run during the fourth inning on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Twins designated hitter Josh Donaldson, right, is greeted by Jorge Polanco after they both scored on Donaldson's two-run home run during the fourth inning on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.

Four consecutive batters reached safely: Buxton (double), Polanco (RBI single), Josh Donaldson (two-run home run) and Max Kepler (double). Polanco's at-bat lasted eight pitches; Donaldson crushed his 21st homer of the season on the seventh-pitch he saw from Mize.

Donaldson crushed Mize's two-seam fastball 436 feet to the shrubs in center field, giving the Twins a 3-1 lead. After Kepler followed with a double, Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter trotted to the mound. Needing two outs to complete the fourth, Mize took Fetter's advice and retired the next two batters on seven pitches.

Still, Mize used 30 pitches in the fourth.

The Twins stayed aggressive and Mize took advantage, pitching a perfect fifth inning with five pitches. He allowed a two-out double to Donaldson and walked Kepler in the sixth but finished his solid outing by striking out Sano swinging with a slider.

Mize generated 11 swings and misses: five sliders, five two-seamers and one splitter.

Hill makes key catch, homers

Once again, Derek Hill made a statement in center field.

When Nick Gordon swung at Mize's first-pitch slider in the third inning, the ball seemed like it would drop at the base of the center-field wall. Instead, Hill put his best attribute — defense — on display. He tracked the ball over his shoulder before making an over-the-head catch on the warning track.

Despite bumping into the wall, Hill kept the ball in his glove.

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Tigers center fielder Derek Hill, right, celebrates with third base coach Ramon Santiago after hitting a solo home run during the third inning against the Twins on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.
Tigers center fielder Derek Hill, right, celebrates with third base coach Ramon Santiago after hitting a solo home run during the third inning against the Twins on Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, at Comerica Park.

Not long after, Hill stepped to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the third.

Facing a full count, Ober threw Hill a fastball up and in. He was productive with his fastballs up in the strike zone and sliders down in the zone throughout Monday's start. But Hill got a piece of his fastball and sent it through the air in left field.

The ball traveled 383 feet and eventually cleared the fence for a 1-0 lead.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers blow key opportunities in 3-2 loss to Twins