DETROIT — The moment he made contact, Andrew Romine could tell he had a chance at his first career grand slam.
“I could feel it. I hit it on the barrel,” the Detroit utilityman said. “It was a matter of whether it was going to stay fair. Once I realized that, there was a lot of adrenaline going on.”
Romine cleared the bases in the fourth inning, and the Tigers rallied from an early three-run deficit to beat the Minnesota Twins 5-3 on Wednesday. Detroit trailed 3-0 before scoring five runs in the fourth, with Romine delivering the key hit when his drive to right field easily cleared the wall to give the Tigers the lead.
Michael Fulmer (1-0) allowed three runs and four hits in six innings, walking one and striking out seven. Detroit’s maligned bullpen pitched three hitless innings, with Alex Wilson working the final two for his third career save and first this season.
With closer Francisco Rodriguez unavailable after pitching the previous two days, Wilson walked two in the ninth but retired Eduardo Escobar on a flyball to end it.
Kyle Gibson (0-1) allowed five runs and four hits in four innings. Brian Dozier led off the game with a homer for Minnesota.
Detroit has won five of six to take sole possession of first place in the AL Central. The Tigers and Twins entered the day tied for the lead.
Minnesota was ahead 3-0 when the Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the fourth. Tyler Collins hit an RBI single, but after James McCann’s flare was caught by Dozier, the second baseman, Gibson was one out away from getting out of the jam with the lead still intact.
Instead, Romine connected on a 1-2 slider.
“That was obviously the wrong pitch at the wrong time, because he was waiting for it,” Gibson said. “I don’t think I’m tipping pitches, but maybe I’m getting into a pattern, because it seemed like Collins was looking for a slider, and Romine was definitely looking for something soft. There’s no way he could have gone down and gotten that kind of swing on that pitch if he wasn’t looking on it, so it was obviously the wrong pitch.”
It was only the seventh career home run for the 31-year-old Romine, who quickly flipped the bat away as he started toward first.
“I don’t remember the bat flip,” he said afterward. “I heard about it. I did not mean to flip it. I still haven’t seen it.”
Reporters had to wait a little while for Romine after the game. He said he’d been giving blood for random drug testing, but he was even in good spirits about that.
“That was immediately when I walked in — it was, `You’ve got a drug test,'” he said.
Fulmer, who threw six scoreless innings in a no-decision against Boston last week, was less sharp against the Twins. Dozier put Minnesota up 1-0 with his 20th leadoff homer , tying Jacque Jones for the top spot on the team’s career list.
Joe Mauer added a two-run single in the third for the Twins, but that was Minnesota’s final hit of the game.
The Tigers have homered in their first eight games of the season for the first time in franchise history. That’s without any home runs from Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez or Justin Upton.
“We’re going to get the bulk of our RBIs from the heart of our lineup when it’s all said and done,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “You need the contribution of players that aren’t quote-unquote run producers to produce runs once in a while.”
Tigers: Detroit continues to be without J.D. Martinez (sprained right foot) in RF. Collins started there Wednesday and had two hits.
Twins: RHP Phil Hughes (1-0) takes the mound Thursday when Minnesota tries to avoid a three-game sweep in this series.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (1-0) makes his second start of the season. He allowed a run in six innings in a win over Boston on Saturday.