The Twins’ 7-16 record is a little deceiving in that there have been very few clunkers like the one they had on Friday.
Their 9-2 loss to the Tigers was a fiasco from the beginning. Phil Hughes gave up three runs in the first inning, the bullpen faltered late and a fly ball fell in between Danny Santana and Oswaldo Arcia in the ninth, allowing a run to score as Detroit piled on.
The Twins looked lifeless and punchless as they dropped the first game between the clubs this season. The Tigers hammered Twins pitchers for 18 hits and three home runs.
“We tried to make a game of it,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Once the floodgates opened it got pretty ugly at the end.”
Of the Twins’ 23 games this season, 15 have been decided by two or fewer runs. Friday’s wasn’t one of them.
Ian Kinsler led off the game with a walk, stole second, then scored on J.D. Martinez’s double to center. Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki set up on the outside corner, but the pitch to Martinez slid back over the plate and was crushed. Several of Hughes’ pitches slid over the plate in the first inning on Friday.
Victor Martinez singled to drive in J.D. Martinez, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Nick Castellanos to put Detroit ahead 3-0. Hughes did not give up another run until Miguel Cabrera’s opposite-field home run in the fifth, his final inning of the night
“Not the way you want to start a game,” said Hughes (1-4). “Not the way you want to start a series. When you put that type of pressure on a bullpen, getting only five innings, usually this kind of thing is going to happen.”
Twins hitters had trouble squaring up Tigers righthander Michael Fulmer in his major league debut.
Fulmer was the big piece the Tigers picked up last year when they traded Yoenis Cespedes to the Mets. Fulmer throws consistently in the mid-90s, which was evident on Friday as he reached 98 miles an hour. Fulmer gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out four.
“Mostly it was his velocity and movement that was giving us trouble,” Molitor said.
The Twins finally broke through in the fourth when they hit three straight singles to center, the last one by Eduarado Escobar that scored Oswaldo Arcia.
Cabrera pounded a 1-1 pitch from Hughes into the seats in right for his fourth home run and a 4-1 Tigers lead in the fifth. Cabrera is batting .439 against Hughes in his career with six home runs. Miguel Sano had a RBI double off a 95-mph Fulmer fastball in the fifth, which produced the Twins’ final run of the night
Sano made his best play as a right fielder in the seventh when he dived to his left to steal an extra-base hit from Cabrera.
Detroit finished off the Twins with five runs over the final two innings. Two runs were charged to Alex Meyer, who made his first appearance since being called up Monday and promptly saw his first two pitches, both 97-mph heaters — get lined to center for singles. Meyer is scheduled to start on Tuesday in Houston.
Tigers catcher Bobby Wilson drove in the final run in the ninth when his sinking-yet-routine fly ball fell between Santana and Arcia.
“When you are having a bad night,” Molitor said, “that sort of punctuates it.”