DETROIT – What Matthew Boyd did to the Twins on Saturday was no surprise.
And what the Twins did once Boyd left the game was no surprise, either.
Once the Detroit Tigers lefthander — who has been a pest to the Twins all season — left with two outs in the sixth inning, baseball’s worst bullpen was activated. And the Twins took over.
They scored eight runs in the eighth inning, behind several clutch hits, to turn a battle into a 10-4 rout. The Twins have fully recovered after losing three games to the Yankees in New York, as they have won the first three games in this series to move closer to clinching an AL wild-card playoff spot.
“It just reinforces the whole mindset of playing the game start to finish,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Can you stay in the moment, relax and not put too much pressure on yourself and give yourself a chance get some runners on base.”
With both Texas and the Los Angeles Angels losing again Saturday, the Twins now have a 4½-game lead for the second wild card over those two teams as well as Kansas City. The Twins have seven games left, the others eight.
With their 37th come-from-behind victory of the season, the Twins on Sunday have a chance to sweep a four-game series at Comerica Park for the first time since 2004.
They didn’t do much with Boyd, who held them to one earned run over 6⅔ innings on four hits, two walks and six strikeouts. In five outings this season, Boyd has a 3.14 ERA against the Twins. He left with Detroit holding onto a 3-2 lead, but its bullpen began the day with a 5.50 ERA, worst in baseball.
Alex Wilson started the eighth but lasted one batter, as Joe Mauer lined a single off the righthander’s right leg. Wilson fell to the ground, but got up and attempted to throw a warmup pitch. He flinched in pain when he attempted to push off on the leg and hobbled off the field. He was diagnosed with a non-displaced right tibia fracture.
In came lefthander Daniel Stumpf. Jorge Polanco singled on a two-strike pitch, moving Mauer to second, and Molitor pinch ran Zack Granite for Mauer.
Eddie Rosario singled at the end of an eight-pitch battle with Stumpf — the first of three hits on 3-2 pitches in the inning — that enabled Granite to tie the score. Eduardo Escobar was asked to bunt with the count 1-1, then had the bunt taken off but kept squaring around anyway. Even when the count hit 3-1.
“I still wanted to bunt because I wanted to help the team win,” Escobar said, “and I’m not feeling that comfortable from the right side, anyway.”
But, with the count full, Escobar swung and floated a single over second baseman Ian Kinsler’s head, scoring the go-ahead run.
Robbie Grossman’s two-run single made it 6-3. With runners on the corners, Jason Castro hit a grounder that Detroit couldn’t turn a double play on, making it 7-3. Then Granite, the pinch runner-turned-batter, blasted a three-run homer to right off lefthander Blaine Hardy, his first career home run. Granite is the first major leaguer to pinch run and homer in the same inning since Boston’s Darren Lewis in 2001, and the first Twin ever.
The game will be known for its attrition. In addition to Wilson, Miguel Cabrera left after one inning because of lower back tightness, Jeimer Candelario left after eight when he banged his knee on the fence in front of his home dugout, and the Twins’ Max Kepler will be re-evaluated Sunday after injuring his left hip in the first inning.
It also will be known for how the Twins waited for Boyd to leave before pouncing, enabling Ervin Santana to improve to 16-8 following seven solid innings.
“I believe in our offense,” Santana said. “The way we have been playing lately, we never give up.”