Chris Herrmann continues to exhibit a knack for timeliness.
While his major-league action has been limited to 34 games, the Twins catcher/outfielder has come up with a handful of clutch hits, particularly in the month of August. Thursday at Comerica Park, while manning the stead of Minnesota’s native baseball son against a World Series contender, the soft-spoken 25-year-old from Texas did it again.
Herrmann’s eighth-inning, RBI double dropped an inch in front of Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson’s glove and helped seize a 7-6 win against the Tigers, who retain a healthy lead at the top of the American League Central Division. Filling in for catcher Joe Mauer, who’s on the seven-day concussion list, Herrmann batted 3-for-5 with a pair of RBI and staked his ever-growing claim to remain in the big-league fold next year.
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The left-handed batter’s winner came against left-handed reliever Drew Smyly, against whom left-handed-hitting opponents were batting .155.
“The Tigers are a tough team to beat; their record shows that,” said Herrmann, a .233 batter this season who appeared in seven games last year. “It was good to see somebody out on second base for me, and I got to drive in the game-winning run. It’s just a good feeling for me.”
Herrmann’s big play followed up a wild first seven innings where the Twins (55-70) picked apart Tigers ace Justin Verlander, only to blow a four-run lead in the sixth inning. The first batter to face reliever Josh Roenicke, Jackson sent a three-run home run to left field to knot the game at six.
Earlier in the sixth, Bryan Holaday finally got to rookie hurler Andrew Albers, who held Major League Baseball’s best hitting team to one on run on six hits through five frames. But Holaday’s infield single to short scored a run and caused manager Ron Gardenhire to bring out Roenicke.
Making his fourth start, Albers (2-1, 3.00 ERA) was charged with all four Tigers runs during their sixth-stanza rally. He did retire reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera (0-for-4) — who has played the last two games in spite of a strained groin suffered Tuesday — all three times he faced him and struck out four batters.
“I thought Albers did a great job,” Gardenhire said. “There at the end, (Detroit) put the ball in some right places. … That’s just the way that ballclub is over there; they can put runs on the board in a hurry.
“It seems like every mistake you make, they make you pay for it.”
Albers’ teammates built him a sizable lead against Verlander, who remained unbeaten in his last 11 starts against the Twins despite allowing six runs and 10 hits in seven innings. Ryan Doumit hit a three-run blast in the fifth, and Herrmann hit another one-run double in the first to afford Minnesota an early lead.
Herrmann and the rest of the Twins lineup had a usually stoic Verlander spewing a bit more negative emotion than normal. After yielding a two-out, RBI single to Wilkin Ramirez then retiring Doug Bernier in the fourth, the six-time All-Star pitcher could be heard yelling in frustration as he walked back to the dugout.
Even though he’s had ample success against Minnesota, it’s been a less superhuman year for Verlander (12-9). His ERA of 3.68 ranks 47th in the majors and is on pace to be his worst in six seasons.
“He’s a guy that’s got a track record of great secondary pitches,” said Twins second baseman Brian Dozier, who went 2-for-5 with an RBI. “Our philosophy is ‘don’t let fastballs go over the middle of the plate.’ We’ve got to really attack it.
“We beat one of the best today. … It makes this bus ride to Cleveland a little better.”Coming off their second series win in as many road sets, the Twins travel to Cleveland for a three-game stop before returning to Target Field against Kansas City on Tuesday.
Twins recall Hendriks: The question of who will replace Kyle Gibson in the Twins’ ailing starting rotation has been answered.
The team plans to recall right-hander Liam Hendriks from Triple-A Rochester in time to start Saturday at Cleveland. Gibson was sent down Monday after pitching 3 2/3 innings in a loss to the New York Mets, opening up a spot for Minnesota to fill before the traditional round of September call-ups.
Hendriks had been mentioned as a September candidate after earning three big-league starts this season. In those outings, he went 0-1 with a 3.94 ERA, striking out eight batters and walking two. In 16 starts with the Red Wings, he posted a 4-8 record and a 4.67 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 15 walks.
It appears the Twins will keep Anthony Swarzak in the bullpen for now. The strong-throwing right-hander started games earlier in his career before transitioning into a middle relief role. He currently boasts a 2.87 ERA.
Hendriks is scheduled to start against Scott Kazmir on Saturday.
Mauer update: According to MLB.com, Mauer saw a Detroit doctor Thursday and was cleared to fly back to Minneapolis on Thursday night after spending Wednesday resting at the team hotel.