Mike Pelfrey found out just how quickly a lead can disappear against the Detroit Tigers.
The Minnesota starter pitched well for five innings until a three-run homer by Prince Fielder lifted the Tigers to a 4-3 victory over the Twins on Monday night.
It was an encouraging start for Pelfrey, but a frustrating loss nonetheless.
”It’s better than what I’ve done before tonight, but it wasn’t good enough,” Pelfrey said. ”I made a horrible pitch and Prince made me pay for it. … I left a sinker high and in the middle of the plate. He’s pretty strong, and he drove it, so I turned around and just hoped it might hit the fence.”
Detroit trailed 3-1 when Andy Dirks reached on a bunt single and Miguel Cabrera walked. Fielder hit the first pitch over the wall in left-center for an opposite-field homer. That part of the fence is about 405 feet from home plate.
Max Scherzer (3-0) allowed three runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings. He struck out 10 without a walk. Drew Smyly finished the eighth and got the first two outs of the ninth, and Joaquin Benoit finished for his second save.
Pelfrey (2-3) allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
”That was a good ballgame,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ”We had the lead for a good long while, and then you see what happens with the middle of that lineup. We worked hard for our runs, and then you make one bad pitch and lose the game.”
Dirks also homered for the Tigers, and Josh Willingham went deep for Minnesota.
Pelfrey, who signed with the Twins in the offseason, entered the night with a 7.94 ERA, but for the first five innings he quieted a Detroit lineup that had just scored 25 runs in a three-game sweep of Atlanta.
Then in a blink, Minnesota’s lead was gone when Fielder connected for his sixth homer of the year.
The free-swinging Braves struck out 39 times in those three games against the Tigers, but Minnesota has done a good job making contact all season. The Twins entered the day with only 150 strikeouts, the second-fewest in baseball, and they pecked away early against Scherzer.
Willingham opened the scoring in the first with a solo shot, his fifth homer of the year. Two singles and a wild pitch put men on second and third in the second, and an RBI groundout by Aaron Hicks made it 2-0.
Dirks homered in the third, but the Twins answered immediately the next inning with Oswaldo Arcia’s run-scoring double.
But Pelfrey couldn’t hold the Tigers down for long enough, and once Detroit took the lead, the Twins didn’t come close to scoring on Scherzer. He struck out the side in the seventh and fanned Brian Dozier to start the eighth before departing. Scherzer threw 114 pitches.
”I was able to pitch ahead in the count, and I thought my fastball-changeup combination really allowed me to get those extra strikeouts at the end,” Scherzer said. ”To keep them from doing any more damage when we got the lead – I thought my two-strike changeup was the pitch that allowed me to get a few extra strikeouts. That’s my pitch.”
Smyly and Benoit finished. Detroit closer Jose Valverde was given the night off after pitching the previous two days.
NOTES: A comebacker by Pedro Florimon appeared to hit Scherzer in the back in the second, but the Detroit right-hander was able to recover and make the play. … Cabrera’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. … Detroit ace Justin Verlander (2-2) takes the mound Tuesday night against Minnesota’s Vance Worley (0-3).