More than 2,400 feet of home runs were hit at Target Field on Wednesday, a six-pack of blasts that included the stadium’s first inside-the-park job in three years.
So naturally, the hit that wound up costing the Twins the game landed on the pitcher’s mound. With five players surrounding it.
“I don’t really feel like we got beat,” manager Paul Molitor said after the Detroit Tigers left with a 10-7 victory and perhaps a few chunks of the Twins’ dignity. “It just didn’t work out.”
Even worse than the mental beating from such a loss was the physical toll it took. The Twins lost — only briefly, they hope — their No. 1 starter, their top setup reliever and an outfielder. Phil Hughes, in search of his first victory of 2015, pitched only five innings, giving up three runs, before pain in his left hip forced him out. Center fielder Jordan Schafer slipped on the grass after beating out a bunt single, and left because of a strained ligament in his right knee. And righthander Casey Fien felt pain in his pitching shoulder, a condition that could turn a shaky bullpen into a beleaguered one.
That bullpen surrendered seven runs over four innings after Hughes’ departure. The defense, however inadvertently, turned a 400-foot fly ball to center into a slow roller down the warning track, good enough to allow Detroit rookie catcher James McCann to circle the bases for an inside-the-park home run that tied the score at 7-7.
“He runs pretty good for a catcher,” Schafer said.
And with the score tied and the Twins trying to regroup from blowing a four-run lead, Trevor Plouffe battled the sun as he circled under Yoenis Cespedes’ mile-high popup, reached out — and missed it.
“It’s a play I have to make,” Plouffe said. “If I call it, I have to catch it.”
The mistake might not have mattered if the Twins could stop the Tigers bats. The teams have played six games this season, and the Tigers are 5-1, recording at least 10 hits in each of their victories. They had 17 Wednesday, the most hits the Twins have given up this year.
So that out-of-the-sunshine gift quickly turned into an opening, and two more singles turned it into a go-ahead run.
“It was one of those games you want to be on the other side of,” Plouffe said. “I thought we played well enough to win early in the game, then kind of gave it back to them.”
Oswaldo Arcia connected on a bazooka of a blast onto the right-field plaza, and Plouffe added a three-run homer that put the Twins up 7-3 and chased Detroit starter Shane Greene. But Miguel Cabrera matched them by himself, with an upper-deck shot to center off Tim Stauffer in the sixth and a straightaway rocket off Fien that made it 10-7 in the ninth. Cabrera would have posted a three-homer day, but a fourth-inning wallop off Hughes failed to clear the right-field limestone by 18 inches, leaving the two-time AL MVP to settle for a double.
Most bizarre was the 400-foot shot that McCann hit off Aaron Thompson. Schafer chased it to the fence but couldn’t catch it. The ball bounced off the wall, then his leg, deflecting down the warning track toward right field. By the time Schafer caught up to it, McCann was finishing off the first inside-the-park home run in Target Field since Angels outfielder Peter Bourjos hit one on April 11, 2012.
“You don’t see that every day,” Molitor said.
Sometimes, though, it seems like stuff like this happens to the Twins all the time.