DETROIT – Forget how they played, if you can. The Twins need to focus on who can play.
Samuel Deduno succumbed to an avalanche of Tigers offense that snowballed into a seven-run inning Saturday, and Minnesota wasted an eight-run rally over the final three innings, falling to the Tigers 12-9 in Comerica Park.
But the ugliness cost them more than their latest chance at reaching .500. They also lost a pair of infielders to injury, potentially leaving them with a one-man bench for Sunday’s finale. “We’re waiting,” manager Ron Gardenhire said of his thin roster. “It’s not very good.”
Trevor Plouffe suffered a strained left oblique while diving for a ground ball in the third inning, and Eduardo Nunez strained his right hamstring while beating out an infield hit in the eighth, forcing Gardenhire to insert Brian Dozier, nursing a sore back of his own, for the final inning. Nunez is almost certainly too hurt to play Sunday, Plouffe (who was taken to a hospital for X-rays and an MRI, which were negative) said he “might have to play through a little pain,” and Dozier has his manager “worried” — despite hitting a ninth-inning home run.
Shortstop Pedro Florimon is reportedly on his way to Detroit from Class AAA Rochester.
“He was stiff,’’ Gardenhire said of Dozier. ‘‘He still hasn’t had to dive for a baseball, hasn’t had to run and slide. All he had to do was hit a home run — [and he] made that look easy. But I’m still worried about him. If I put him out there tomorrow and he dives for a ball and has to come out, where am I now?”
Here’s where the Twins are now: In fourth place once more, four games behind the Tigers, two games below .500, and worried about a hobbled lineup that, on the bright side, has scored 26 runs in five games on this road trip. But if nothing else, the injuries kept Gardenhire from focusing on Deduno’s latest messiness.
In fact, the manager commiserated with his Dominican righthander, who allowed some bad bounces to snowball into a seven-run third inning and his third awful start in his last four.
“He gave up the big three-run homer” to Victor Martinez, Gardenhire said, “but the other ones — chopper over the third baseman’s head, chopper over the middle that took a bad hop. He got himself in trouble, walked a guy in the middle of it. It definitely wasn’t very good, but he was unlucky.”
The Twins have a lot of that sort of luck against the Tigers, it seems; they have scored nine or more runs and lost anyway seven times since 2008, and five of those frustrating losses have come against Detroit.
“I cannot stop the Tiger offense today. They hit me pretty good,” said Deduno.
Deduno helped stake the Tigers to an 11-1 lead after six innings. Anibal Sanchez allowed only three singles until the seventh inning.
The Twins pounced on Detroit’s bullpen, however, racking up three runs in the seventh, three more in the eighth and two in the ninth on Dozier’s 15th home run. “That’s just big for our morale, to fight back like that,” said Eric Fryer, who collected three singles in his first game in the majors since September. “They had to bring guys in to get us out; that means something.”
The Twins had chances to pull off the big comeback, but Joe Mauer ended the seventh inning by flying out with two runners on base, and ended the eighth by grounding out with the bases loaded.
“We got back in the game,” Gardenhire said. “It wasn’t very pretty for them after Sanchez came out.”
But it was never pretty for the Twins.