MINNEAPOLIS — Ryan Doumit single-handedly beat the Detroit Tigers on Friday night at Target Field.
Minnesota’s designated hitter drove in all four Twins runs as they topped the visiting Tigers 4-2. In doing so, Minnesota helped shape the race for the American League Central title. Detroit led the Chicago White Sox by two games entering Friday night. The Tigers loss, coupled with Chicago’s 3-1 win over Tampa Bay, means that the White Sox now trail Detroit by just one game.
They can thank Doumit for that.
“That’s a good team over there, that’s a really good team, and they’re playing for something,” Doumit said of the Tigers. “For us it’s exciting to have something to play for and that’s to kind of be the spoilers. That’s a team that’s had our number all year. It was a big game.”
It was a big game for Doumit, who broke open a scoreless tie in the seventh inning. His two-run home run off Tigers reliever Phil Coke put the Twins up 2-0. Doumit connected on a 2-1 pitch from Coke and sent it to the seats in left field for his career-high 17th home run of the season.
In the clubhouse after the game, Twins left fielder Josh Willingham made sure to publicize the fact that Doumit broke his bat on his home run. Doumit said it was the first time in his career he’s done that.
“My bad,” he said. “It felt good off the bat. I’ll tell you that much. I didn’t know (it was broken) until I got home.”
After Detroit tied the game with a two-run homer by Omar Infante in the top of the eighth, Doumit came through in the clutch yet again in the bottom half of the inning. With Denard Span on second base and one out, the Tigers opted to walk Twins catcher Joe Mauer. Justin Morneau then drew a one-out walk against Brayan Villarreal to load the bases, and Doumit sent a double to the gap in right-center, driving in Span and Mauer.
Doumit’s two-run double sealed the 4-2 win for the Twins and helped the White Sox gain a game on first-place Detroit.
“When Infante answered back with that two-run homer, it would have been easy to kind of roll over right there,” Doumit said. “But we strung together some good at-bats, and this was a fun win.”
Doumit’s big night at the plate helped support another solid outing by left-hander Scott Diamond, who held the Tigers to two runs (one earned) on six hits in 7 1/3 innings. It was the second start in a row in which Diamond limited Detroit to two runs in seven or more innings.
On Friday, he got all the offense he needed from Doumit.
“He’s had some big hits for us,” Diamond said of Doumit. “Even being that backup to Joe as a catcher, I love it when he’s back there because he’s working every pitch. He’s just been invaluable to this team and to this locker room, really.”
The four-RBI night for Doumit comes at the end of what has been a career year for the 31-year-old utility man. Signed by the Twins in the offseason, Doumit has set career highs in plate appearances (520), home runs (17) and RBI (71). The importance, he said, has been the ability to stay healthy.
Doumit was plagued by injuries during his seven-year career with the Pittsburgh Pirates and never played in more than 124 games. Friday marked his 132nd game with the Twins this season. Minnesota has used Doumit as a backup catcher to Mauer, as well as an outfielder and a designated hitter.
“Most of all it’s nice to stay healthy,” Doumit said. “This is the first time, knock on wood, that I’ve managed to stay off the disabled list and get 500 at-bats, which is nice to see what I can do once I’ve been given those at-bats.
While the Twins have suffered through their second straight 90-loss season, they’ve enjoyed seeing the production from Doumit from start to finish. His 17 homers are fourth on the team while his 71 RBI also rank fourth.
“He’s a gamer. He comes in here every day and plays hard,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Doumit. “I wouldn’t say he’s been a big surprise for us because we thought the guy could play a little bit. He’s been very good for us. Tonight was a very good night for us.”