The Tigers led 11-1 after six innings on Saturday, but their struggling bullpen had trouble finishing off the game against the Twins.
DETROIT — Despite falling a single short of hitting for the cycle in front of his childhood idol, Eugenio Suarez still had a memorable game.
Playing in just his eighth career game, Suarez had a double, triple, homer, two RBI and scored three runs in Detroit’s 12-9 victory Saturday. He grounded into a force out in the eighth inning, ending his bid for the cycle.
Making it even better, former Tigers star Magglio Ordonez was watching from a Comerica Park suite. Suarez grew up in Venezuela with Ordonez as his favorite player, and wears the same No. 30 jersey.
"I didn’t know I was ready to have a game like that," Suarez said. "It was great to have the chance at the cycle, even if I didn’t get it, but it was more special because Magglio was here. I didn’t even know he was until I after hit my homer, but that made it more exciting."
The 22-year-old Suarez started the season in Double-A, and only got 12 games at Triple-A before coming up to the Tigers early this month. He’s impressed his teammates and his manager with his offense — he’s hitting .400 with three homers — and his poise.
"We knew that he had some power, but we didn’t expect him to come out like this," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He’s become a major part of our offense a lot faster than we expected."
One of Detroit’s veteran leaders, Victor Martinez, is also surprised at the way Suarez has arrived in the majors.
"He’s been playing great for us, both on offense and defense," Martinez said. "When I came up to the majors, it took me a while to adjust and get into a rhythm, but he has just stepped right up."
Suarez led off Detroit’s seven-run third inning with a homer and added an RBI double before it was over, but the Tigers had to hold on after jumping out to an 11-1 lead. The Twins scored eight runs in the final three innings as a slumping Tigers bullpen tried to close out the game.
"We’ve got to be able to finish off games better than that," Ausmus said. "We had to get our top two guys up, and we used almost everyone else. That can’t happen."
Things got close enough that Ian Krol got his first major league save by getting the last four outs, but also gave up a two-run homer.
"I’ve never been part of anything like that," said Krol, whose only other professional save came in Double-A.
Detroit came into the game having lost 17 of 24 after a fast start to the season, but it was helped by another strong pitching performance. Anibal Sanchez (3-2) was charged with three runs and four hits in 6 1-3 innings.
Sanchez, Drew Smyly and Max Scherzer have combined for a 1.69 ERA in Detroit’s last three games.
Sanchez was in complete control before he walked the leadoff hitter in the seventh and allowed a one-out RBI triple to Eduardo Nunez. Evan Reed then came in, and Nunez scored on a passed ball.
Samuel Deduno (2-5) lasted just 2 2-3 innings for Minnesota, which had won three in a row. The right-hander allowed seven runs and seven hits, struck out three and walked two.
Deduno is 1-2 with a 10.13 ERA in his last four starts.
"Nothing was good today," he said. "I didn’t make good pitches, and I didn’t get much luck. I just couldn’t stop their offense."
Suarez started the third with a drive over the bullpens in left, moments after Ordonez was shown on the video board and received a huge ovation.
Suarez drove in Nick Castellanos with a double later in the inning, and Torii Hunter also had an RBI double. Martinez’s drive off the top of the right-field wall was originally ruled a double, but quickly became a two-run homer after a replay review.
Ian Kinsler drove in the seventh run of the inning with an infield single, and third baseman Trevor Plouffe strained his left oblique diving for the ball. Plouffe stayed in the game for another batter, but had to leave after aggravating the injury while throwing out Hunter to end the inning.
Suarez added a triple in the seventh and had a chance for a cycle in the eighth, but bounced into a forceout. Only one player — Cliff Heathcote of the 1918 St. Louis Cardinals — has recorded a cycle within the first eight games of his career.
The Twins scored three times in the seventh and eighth to close to 12-7, but Krol retired Joe Mauer with the bases loaded for the final out of the eighth. Krol allowed Brian Dozier’s homer in the ninth before finally finishing a game that had lasted almost four hours.
"We kept swinging, and they didn’t pitch very well after the starter came out, so we had chances," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "we got back into it, and the guys were up and yelling in the dugout."
NOTES: With the homer and double in the third, Suarez became the first Tigers player with two extra-base hits in an inning since Ordonez on Aug. 12, 2007. … The teams finish the three-game series Sunday afternoon with Detroit’s Rick Porcello facing Minnesota’s Ricky Nolasco. … Gardenhire said that Plouffe will probably go on the disabled list Sunday, and that he is also concerned about Eduardo Nunez, who injured a hamstring late in the game.