Robbie Ray departed after 1 1/3 innings, leaving it to the bullpen to finish what would be a lopsided game for the Twins. The offense came close at one point but were held down, unable to rescue a drowning pitching staff.
The Tigers' offense did what they could, but Robbie Ray and the bullpen allowed the Twins open season in the first of a four-game series in Minnesota. The Twins pounded the Tigers pitching staff with 20 hits and won 20-6, dropping the Tigers to 2 1/2 games back of the Royals, who won 6-3 against the Rangers.
The game started out with a blast, courtesy of Ian Kinsler, who homered to left field and gave Ray a lead to begin with. Ray retired the first three batters in order, but six runs on six runs in the second inning sent him packing. From there, Blaine Hardy and Phil Coke took over and gave the Tigers three scoreless innings, enough time for the Tigers to get within one run of the Twins.
The rest of the bullpen not only undid that work as Al Alburquerque had no command but Joba Chamberlain gave up two runs on four hits and Andrew Romine, who made his MLB debut on the mound, took one for the team but gave up two homers and three runs overall. On the whole, Tigers pitching walked (9) more batters than they struck out (8) and the defense committed two errors.
For a while, the Tigers were actually outhitting the Twins, but had little to show for it and in the end, despite 15 hits, couldn't come close to what the Twins put on the board. Rajai Davis was the only Tigers batter in the starting rotation without a hit as he finished 0-4, and Alex Avila made his MLB debut at first base.
Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez each had two hits, and oddly enough the Tigers struck out only three times as a team. They left 16 men on base and only Victor Martinez grounded into a double play. Kinsler was given his fifth error (fielding) of the season and Castellanos his 11th (throwing). Kinsler was also credited with the only stolen base in the game, which was his 13th of the season.
Ian Kinsler: Well it figures the Tigers would play an entire game on Thursday without scoring a single run. Anyway, Kinsler wasted no time in getting the Tigers off to a good start with a lead-off solo home run. One batter into the game and the Tigers had a 1-0 lead against the Twins. Good feelings! Trust me, you'll need this one later. In fact, just put this at-bat on replay and imagine this was the game. (MLB.com video)
Blaine Hardy/Phil Coke: They stepped up big time when Ray was pulled after just 1 1/3 innings. The Tigers were down five runs and Blaine Hardy and Phil Coke combined for three scoreless innings. Hardy made a nice back-handed no-look play (MLB.com video) and despite giving up two hits in the second inning, none came around to score. Hardy and Coke each walked a batter while striking out one a piece to give the offense a shot at a comeback.
Fifth inning: It took a while, but the Tigers finally figured out Tommy Milone, answering the Twins' second inning with a mash-fest of their own. Thanks to a defensively yippy Eduardo Escobar, Torii Hunter reached first base via the shortstop's throwing error with one out. What followed was this: Cabrera singled, Victor Martinez hit an RBI single, J.D. Martinez got an RBI double that just barely missed being a home run (MLB.com video), Nick Castellanos hit an RBI single, Eugenio Suarez singled, and Bryan Holaday crushed a sacrifice fly that just barely missed being a grand slam.
The conclusion of this game: It was beyond rough, it was a hard game to watch. Even though the Tigers struggled to put runs together in almost every inning but the fifth, they did drive in what could have been the tying run if the bullpen had simply kept it together. They came back from a 6-0 deficit to make it a one-run game and actually gave themselves a chance for the win. Short of a minor-league version of blowing the game wide open though, there was no way the offense was going to be able to recover from a 14-run deficit. Not to mention the Tigers have a doubleheader to play on Saturday.
Robbie Ray: The first inning went quite well. The second, not so much. In fact, it went about as bad as things could have gone. The Twins got six straight hits off of Ray, including three straight doubles and back-to-back two-run home runs. The Tigers were forced to go to their bullpen with only one out recorded and trailing 6-1.
Eduardo Escobar: A home run, a single and a triple gave Escobar one hit shy of hitting for the cycle against the Tigers. He might not have been solid on the field, but offensively he was giving Tigers pitching nightmares.
Sixth inning nightmare: Jim Johnson retired the final two batters in the fifth inning with just six pitches, but in the sixth inning Johnson gave up a lead-off triple to Escobar then issued back-to-back walks before an RBI single ended his night. Ian Krol replaced Johnson and gave up a two-run single, both runs that were charged to Johnson. In all, Johnson, Krol and Al Alburquerque handed the Twins a ... wait for it ... NINE-run sixth inning. Nine stinking runs. Simply because you need something to ... smile? ... about, those runs have been dubbed Mr. Burns, Sylvester the cat, Palpatine, Bart, Loki, Decepticons (all of them), Voldemort, Cruella De Vil, and Scar. Now would someone please give me some Tylenol ...
Tigers offense in every other inning: The Tigers had multiple scoring opportunities both before and after the fifth inning. They produced on none of them, despite runners on third base multiple times.
Bullpen: Al Alburquerque couldn't find the strike zone in the sixth inning and walked two before recording the final out of that inning. Joba Chamberlain pitched the seventh and gave up four hits, two runs and a walk. With the bullpen drained and hemorrhaging, Andrew Romine took one for the team in the eighth. He gave up four hits, three runs and struck out one. Romine gave up back-to-back home runs, one that was of the two-run variety.
Following the game the Tigers recalled Patrick McCoy and Kyle Lobstein, and sent Robbie Ray and Ian Krol back down to Triple-A Toledo. Buck Farmer will start the first of a doubleheader for Saturday and Justin Verlander will pitch the nightcap.
In other news, Rays starter Drew Smyly pitched the first complete-game shutout of his career. He allowed just two hits without surrendering a walk and threw just 105 pitches. Smyly faced one batter over the minimum and retired the last 16 Blue Jays in order.
ahhhh. . . DrewSmylywithatwohitshutouttonight . . .chooooo
— Tom Gage (@Tom_Gage) August 23, 2014
STREAKS AND STATS:
Kinsler ended the longest homerless stretch of his career (43 games) with his lead-off home run. The home run was also Kinsler's 30th career lead-off home run, and his first since September 17, 2013 against the Rays.
Robbie Ray is the third Tigers starter since 1914 to last no more than 1 1/3 innings, give up at least two home runs, at least five extra-base hits and at least six earned runs.
Jeff Jones wore a path between the dugout and the mound. Between the nine mound visits he made, five occurred in the sixth inning alone.
In 113 of the 126 complete games the Tigers played this season, they had not given up as many runs as they gave up in just the sixth inning. It took 42 minutes to play the bottom of the sixth inning alone.
Friday's game took three hours and 59 minutes to complete, was a season-high in runs allowed, and was the first 20-run game by Tigers pitching since September 4, 2013 against the Boston Red Sox.
Twins Kurt Suzuki was the only one in their starting lineup to go hitless in the game, as he finished the night 0-6 with three strikeouts, once to Romine.
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