Despite an ineffective showing from Rick Porcello, the Tigers waited out old nemesis Scott Diamond and got to the Twins bullpen, coming back from three runs down in a 7-6 victory.
The Tigers had to wait out an hour long rain delay to get the game started, but they came out swinging. Miguel Cabrera hit yet another home run, a two run shot, in the bottom of the first after a Torii Hunter single to give the Tigers an early 2-0 lead. It looked as though the Tigers might have a good night against Diamond, who has an ERA under two against them this season. It was Cabrera’s sixth homer in his last four games.
Staked to a lead, Porcello could not keep his good form going. A double and then a one out single opened the second, and Brian Dozier drove in the Twins’ first run on a fielder’s choice after Jhonny Peralta couldn’t handle a funky hop. Porcello escaped the second without further damage, but he ran into further danger in the third. After two straight singles to lead off the inning, Joe Mauer came through to tie it, and Josh Willingham proceeded to blast a three-run homer to turn a 2-1 Tiger lead into a 5-2 deficit. Porcello managed to pull it together and get through five without any further damage, but the numbers were not pretty: 10 hits and 5 runs, lifting his ERA to an unsavory 6.28.
The Tigers showed signs of life in the fifth, as they loaded the bases with two singles and a walk with two outs. More alarmingly for the Twins, this brought up Cabrera. He did exactly what everyone expected: hit an infield single to shortstop to make it 5-3. Prince Fielder popped out, however, ending the threat there. The Twins would get that run back in the seventh inning when Willingham led off the frame with his second home run of the game.
Diamond had pitched into the sixth, and the bullpen got him out of a 2nd and 3rd, 2 out jam in that inning. Reliever Casey Fien, however, struggled to start the seventh. He gave up a single to Infante and, after striking out Hunter, ensured that Cabrera got nothing good to hit by walking him on four pitches. Ron Gardenhire then turned to Brian Duensing, who ended up getting hammered. This time, Fielder came through against him, singling to drive in Infante and make it 6-4. Victor Martinez finally got some BABIP love next, looping a fly ball into center that a diving Aaron Hicks couldn’t get to. The single scored Cabrera and made it 6-5. Jhonny Peralta came through in a big way, doubling to tie the game and move Martinez to third. After a Matt Tuiasosopo hit by pitch loaded the bases with one out, it looked good for the Tigers to take the lead – but foul popouts by Brayan Pena and Andy Dirks meant the Tigers stranded three and had to settle for a tie.
After Joaquin Benoit pitched a perfect eighth, the Tigers sent the top of the order up against Jared Burton, and Infante was once again the rally starter, singling to lead off the inning. Jim Leyland then had Torii Hunter bunt again, knowing that it would take the bat out of Cabrera’s hands – which it did, as the Twins handed him the most predictable intentional walk ever – and brought up Fielder, who gave the Tigers the lead with a bit of luck. His ground ball deflected off the pitcher’s glove and trickled into no man’s land in shallow right-center field behind the second baseman, allowing Infante to scamper home from second.
Jose Valverde pitched the ninth despite having gone the last two days and, with a bit of help from a rather generous Joe West strike zone, retired the heart of the Twins’ order 1-2-3 with two strikeouts in yet another bizarre game for the Tigers – but their third consecutive victory.
The Tigers will go for their second win in the four-game series by sending Anibal Sanchez to the mound tomorrow night against Samuel Deduno, who is making his season debut for Minnesota.