Tigers deal Twins gut-wrenching loss in 12 innings
MINNEAPOLIS — The home run hit by Detroit’s J.D. Martinez landed on the emptied metal benches in lower left field, causing a clanging noise that was audible throughout the eerily quiet ballpark.
That was the sound of defeat near the end of a long Wednesday night for postseason-chasing Minnesota.
Ian Kinsler’s two-out RBI single preceded the two-run drive by Martinez in the top of the 12th inning, pushing the Tigers past the Twins 7-4.
The Twins stayed 1 1/2 games behind Houston for the second American League wild card spot, after the Astros lost to Texas.
"It’s disappointing. You’re going to have these kinds of losses. They’re kind of magnified with where we’re at," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You try to learn from it."
Brian Duensing (4-1) was responsible for the 12th after temporary closer Kevin Jepsen took his first blown save in eight attempts with Minnesota. The first pitch was delayed 56 minutes because of rain, and the game finally ended at 12:23 a.m. local time.
"We have to keep our mind positive," said Twins starter Ervin Santana, who pitched seven strong innings after recovering from a two-run double in the first by Tyler Collins.
Ian Krol (2-3), the ninth Tigers pitcher, got the last nine outs for the victory while allowing only one walk. He stranded the two runners he inherited with no outs in the 10th.
"It was a lot of fun," Krol said, "but it was also very exhausting."
Jefry Marte hit a two-run single in the four-hit ninth against Jepsen. Then the Twins got one back in the bottom of the inning as Bruce Rondon took his third blown save in eight tries for Detroit, walking Miguel Sano to start and surrendering the tying double to Trevor Plouffe.
Eddie Rosario, who hit a home run in the third inning, delivered the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh against Drew VerHagen.
"A lot of chances tonight, but that’s baseball. It happens," Rosario said. "Everybody tried to win, but not tonight, maybe tomorrow."
Daniel Norris came off the disabled list to start for the Tigers on a strict pitch count that limited him to 3 2/3 innings. The Twins had only two hits through the sixth, but Joe Mauer walked to start the seventh and stretch his streak of reaching base to 36 consecutive games.
Sano followed with his second double of the game. Hunter’s single off third baseman Marte’s glove gave VerHagen his first run allowed in 12 appearances. Then Rosario met Detroit’s third reliever, Blaine Hardy, with the big hit.
Santana, who had three double plays turned behind him, has logged 29 innings over his last four starts and allowed just 22 hits, six walks and five runs with 32 strikeouts.
Aaron Hicks made the last out of the sixth when he strayed too far on a fly out to left and was doubled up before he could retreat to second. Then he overthrew the cutoff man from right field in the ninth, trying to nab Steven Moya at third base while allowing Collins to move up to second. Marte’s clutch single came next.
"It’s just basic fundamental baseball," Molitor said.
Righty Ricky Nolasco threw a sharp bullpen session Wednesday, and Molitor used the words "professionalism" and "hunger" in praising Nolasco’s effort to return from right ankle surgery this season. The Twins have a six-man rotation, so the only chance for Nolasco to pitch while the Twins are in contention would be in relief.
"I’m proud of what he’s done to get himself ready," Molitor said.
Twins closer Glen Perkins looked good in his bullpen session, Molitor said, and the closer should be ready for game action by Friday. Jepsen has been handling the ninth inning for Perkins, who’s been out with a bad back since Sept. 1.
This 10-game homestand continues for Minnesota on Thursday against wild-card competitor Los Angeles, with LHP Tommy Milone (8-5, 3.73 ERA) taking the mound for the Twins against LHP Hector Santiago (8-9, 3.21 ERA) of the Angels.