Mauer, Twins beat Tigers in doubleheader opener
Scott Diamond knew he was probably facing his biggest batter of the day. As it turned out, he was right.
With his Twins losing 2-0 to the Tigers, Diamond was facing Omar Infante with a runner on and two out in the fifth. Infante himself wasn't what Diamond was worried about - it was the batter on deck.
''When I walked Austin Jackson, I realized that if I didn't get Infante, I was going to have to face Miguel Cabrera with two runners on base,'' he said. ''That's a dangerous situation.''
He didn't have to worry. Infante hit a grounder to short and Diamond got out of the inning. Minnesota then scored five runs in the sixth and cruised to a 10-4 victory in the first game of a day-night doubleheader.
The loss dropped Detroit a full game behind the White Sox in the AL Central.
Diamond (12-8) allowed two runs on four hits in seven innings, and improved his career ERA against the Tigers to 3.07 in four starts. He struck out five.
''After my last couple starts, I've worked really hard on keeping the ball down in the zone,'' he said between games. ''Today, I was able to execute my pitches where I wanted them.''
After leaving his previous start with shoulder weakness, Max Scherzer (16-7) pitched five shutout innings despite a fastball that topped out at 93 instead of his usual high-90s. However, he couldn't get an out in the sixth, and ended up allowing three runs in five-plus innings.
''I knew if I could go out there and mix speeds, it would be just as effective as having velocity,'' he said. ''I know I don't have to have velocity to be a good pitcher.''
He wasn't getting any arguments from the Minnesota clubhouse.
''He's still got great stuff, even if he wasn't throwing 97,'' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. ''He's got the great change, a great breaking ball and everything is moving all over the place. We really had to be patient with him.''
The Tigers led 2-0 early, with an RBI and a run from Miguel Cabrera, but Detroit's notoriously bad defense melted down in the sixth, leading to five Minnesota runs. Ben Revere led off with a fly to left that Andy Dirks dropped just short of the wall. By the time Dirks could locate the ball, Revere was at third with what was ruled a triple.
Joe Mauer pulled the Twins within 2-1 with an infield single, and Josh Willingham moved him to third with a double. That brought Phil Coke into the game, and he got Justin Morneau to fly to shallow left.
Dirks, though, got a very late break and the ball dropped for a game-tying single.
Ryan Doumit walked to load the bases, and Trevor Plouffe made it 3-2 with a single on Brayan Villarreal's first pitch. The Twins then added a bizarre run when a third strike got away from Gerald Laird.
Villarreal covered the plate, but stretched for a force out instead of tagging Morneau. He only realized his mistake when home-plate umpire Tom Hallion singled safe. The fifth run then scored when Pedro Florimon beat out an inning-ending double play.
''That's something I've never seen in 49 years of baseball,'' Jim Leyland said. ''He saw the batter heading for first and thought it was a force play. He's probably not an expert on the rulebook, to be honest with you.''
In the seventh, Revere walked, stole second, took third on Laird's throwing error and scored when Dirks made a diving catch of Mauer's foul fly to left. The Twins made it 8-2 on RBI singles by Eduardo Escobar and Revere in the eighth, and Mauer's triple later in the inning got Minnesota to double figures.
''We put together three great innings in a row and got ourselves a win,'' Gardenhire said. ''At this point in the season, that's great to see.''
Avisail Garcia's two-run single in the ninth slightly narrowed the final gap.
NOTES: Scherzer's loss was his first since July 30. He is 10-2 in 16 starts since June 28. ... After the first-game victory, the Twins are now 5-0 in day-night doubleheaders this season, having swept two against Kansas City earlier this season. ... The first game drew a sold-out crowd of 40,438, and the second game was expected to sell out as well. ... With the game out of hand, Leyland took out stars Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Austin Jackson after the eighth inning.