Minnesota Twins’ Ryan Doumit is congratulated in the dugout after hitting three-run home run against the Detroit Tigers in the fifth inning of a baseball game Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013 in Detroit.
Duane BurlesoN • Associated Press,
Justin Morneau got a high-five from manager Ron Gardenhire after Thursday’s victory.
Duane Burleson • Associated Press,
Twins Insider: Fun can still be had in late August
- Article by: La Velle E. Neal III
- Star Tribune
- August 22, 2013 - 11:59 PM
DETROIT – The joy of card games, music and pizza awaited the Twins on Thursday after they blew two leads but rebounded to edge the Detroit Tigers 7-6 at Comerica Park. It was on to Cleveland by bus, a three-hour ride that was destined to seem shorter after the Twins took two of three games from the AL Central leaders.
Veteran Justin Morneau promised to be the player who would “get the little speakers with the music going’’ on the bus ride. Morneau clearly was savoring the series victory in which the Twins didn’t look at all overmatched.
Minnesota hitters were consistently tough outs against Detroit ace righthander Justin Verlander. Ryan Doumit cranked a three-run homer, and rookie Chris Herrmann’s RBI double in the eighth won the game.
After going 2-6 on their recent homestand, the Twins looked ready to become road kill on I-80 between Detroit and Cleveland —two cities with playoff dreams. Instead, they won two close games in Detroit and lost the other because of two ugly innings. All without All-Star catcher Joe Mauer, who’s recovering from a concussion.
“We held on at the end, which is pretty fun,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
It’s tough to see progress in their 56-70 record, but Morneau does.
“It’s a completely different feel than it has been the past two seasons at this time of year,” he said. “Guys are still optimistic. Guys are still learning. Guys are still getting better.
“I commented to Gardy about communication-type stuff, stuff that you used to have to remind guys of in the past. Now it’s automatic. Guys here are starting to get more comfortable in doing what they are doing here. That’s a good thing.”
The Twins scored six runs off Verlander in seven innings. They took a 1-0 lead in the first on Herrmann’s RBI double but gave the lead away. They moved out to a 5-2 lead in the fifth, fueled by Doumit’s three-run homer, coming off of a fat Verlander curve. The Twins tacked on another run in the sixth to lead 6-2.
But Detroit stormed back with four runs in the sixth, including a three-run homer by Austin Jackson off Josh Roenicke that tied the score 6-6.
“No one would have been happy playing extra innings after blowing that lead,” Morneau said.
Doug Bernier drew a walk off Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon in the eighth. With two outs, Tigers manager Jim Leyland brought in lefthander Drew Smyly to face Herrmann. Smyly had held lefthanded hitters to a .155 batting average, but Herrmann hit a 1-1 slider that appeared to be misjudged by Jackson in center. The ball fell in for a double, and Bernier scored what turned out to be the winning run.
It was another clutch hit for Herrmann, whose grand slam in the 10th inning on July 23 at Los Angeles will be one of the highlights of the season.
“You should focus on trying to make contact and see what happens,” Herrmann said. “That’s what happened today. It drove the guy in and it worked out.”
The Twins were 6-for-27 with runners in scoring position during the series but still won two of the three games. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing.
Earlier in the year, Herrmann had to be handed pictures of teammates holding their hands in the air as a gentle nudge to hit the cutoff man. This is the time of year to see the younger players like Herrmann, who can catch and play the outfield, apply some of the lessons they have learned.
Herrmann, Brian Dozier, Pedro Florimon and the other inexperienced players have to show over the final weeks of the regular season that they have stepped forward (Dozier definitely has). That’s how the Twins will judge progress — as well as beating teams like the Tigers on their field.
“Obviously you want to do well, and that is going to help you stay in the big leagues,” Morneau said. “Doing the things to help the team win that day are more important than anything personal. Guys are seeing that, and they are doing what they need to do to try and make a difference in the game.’’
© 2013 Star Tribune