Paul Molitor was forced to go to his bullpen early Sunday. And once that door opened, it wouldn’t close.
One by one, Twins relievers dashed onto the field looking to shut down the Tigers, only for Molitor to end up calling for someone else.
The Twins scored in every inning the Tigers did, but the relievers could not tame Detroit’s offense in a 9-6 loss at Target Field. The Twins scored four of their six runs over the last three innings, but Detroit scored seven runs during the same span.
“It’s disappointing when you keep fighting but you give up — I don’t know how many we gave up the last three innings — but crooked numbers in each and every one,” Molitor said.
The Twins committed three errors in the third inning, including two on one play. Of the six relievers, only Ryan Pressly had a clean outing. If that many relievers are involved, it’s not good. Especially for a bullpen that entered the game ranked 26th in baseball in ERA.
It made for a historically long afternoon. At 4 hours, 19 minutes, it was the longest nine-inning game in Twins history. It bettered the record of 4:11, set exactly a year earlier in Boston.
It’s not the way the Twins wanted to finish a homestand — during which they went 3-3 — before heading west for eight games, beginning with three against the mighty Dodgers. But they brought it on themselves in various ways Sunday.
Lefthander Adalberto Mejia threw a whopping 96 pitches over 4 ⅓ innings. Detroit hitters fouled off 21 pitches to help wear Mejia down. That’s nearly two innings worth of foul balls.
“They are a good team,” Mejia said, “because we kept going deep into the counts.”
After taking a 4-2 lead in seventh, on a two-run homer by Jose Iglesias off Trevor Hildenberger, Detroit nearly gave the game to the Twins. With one out and the bases loaded, second baseman Ian Kinsler booted Zack Granite’s grounder as a run scored to make it 4-3. Tigers reliever Shane Greene struck out Brian Dozier for the second out.
Eduardo Escobar then worked the count full before fouling off four consecutive pitches. On the 13th pitch of the at-bat — and the announced crowd of 28,373 on its feet — Greene blew a 96 mile-per-hour fastball by Escobar to end the inning. The Twins finished 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
“That was the probably the moment where we were looking to get over the hump,” Molitor.
Detroit added two runs in the eighth off reliever Buddy Boshers. Brandon Kintzler gave up three runs in the ninth. Two of those scored on a single and a base-loaded walk given up by Craig Breslow, who was designated for assignment after the game.
Dozier homered in the bottom of the inning, but Detroit beat the Twins for the sixth time in nine meetings this season. And they are 15-3 against the Twins over their past six series at Target Field.
Kinsler, Iglesias, James McCann and former Twin Alex Presley each had three hits for the Tigers, and Matthew Boyd struck out a career-high eight.
“We had our opportunities,” Molitor said. “They had a misplay we didn’t take full advantage of, other than the run we scored on that particular play.”
The Twins (49-48) fell into third place in the AL Central, two games behind Cleveland and one game behind Kansas City.