Just as the Twins hoped, Saturday’s games with the normally punchless Tigers came down to Home Run Derby. But it wasn’t exactly the knockout they expected.
Minnesota drilled four errant pitches into the seats during their doubleheader, but the Tigers did, too, and the result was a split of the two games that felt mildly disappointing to the home team.
Detroit, by far the most homer-challenged offense in the AL, cracked four solo shots in the day’s first game to earn a 5-3 victory and end the Twins’ four-game winning streak. Minnesota responded by ambushing a couple of Detroit rookies with a 15-hit barrage in the evening to score an 8-3 win.
C.J. Cron homered in both games, while Jason Castro (first game) and Marwin Gonzalez (second) both chipped in solo homers.
“Look at the swings that have resulted in home runs — they’re not big, out-of-control swings, guys going up there just trying to put the ball over the wall,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “They are the result of good at-bats. They’re just good, nice, easy swings that good hitters are putting on the ball.”
Both Twins starting pitchers allowed three runs on six hits over six innings, but while Michael Pineda was victimized by a trio of long balls and a dearth of run support, Kohl Stewart was supplied with the Twins’ increasingly typical run-an-inning offense. The Twins couldn't win for Pineda despite his second quality start of the season, but Stewart, called up just for the makeup of an April 12 game lost to a snowstorm, earned his third big-league victory.
Pineda has allowed 10 home runs, the third-most in the AL, after giving up two upper-deck blasts by shortstop Ronny Rodriguez and a foul-pole-scraper by DH Brandon Dixon.
“Those aren’t the home runs that are usually going to beat you,” Baldelli said of all the bases-empty shots. Pineda “made pitches when he had to, and yeah, he gave up a few home runs, but as a whole, he made way more quality pitches than not.”
True, but so is this: Pineda has now started five straight losses for the Twins, who are 14-1 since Pineda’s skid began when any other member of their starting rotation is on the mound.
It wasn’t Pineda who gave up the costliest home run, however. After Cron’s blast into the upper deck in right-center tied the score of Game 1 in the eighth inning, Trevor Hildenberger surrendered a screamer into the flower pots atop the left-field fence to former Twins farmhand John Hicks, spoiling the Twins’ comeback.
That rally was started by Castro’s homer, a run the Tigers could have prevented just by doing nothing. But when Castro was awarded first base in the sixth inning for a two-out pitch that struck the handle of his bat, and not his right hand, Detroit’s acting manager, Steve Liddle, asked for a replay review.
His challenge was upheld, but two pitches later, Castro pounded a fastball into the right field seats.
“Once you get to first base, it’s not always easy to walk back there and focus and have a good at-bat. He of course did and put a great swing on the ball,” Baldelli said. “It ended up working out OK.”
Maybe losing Game 1 worked out OK, too, because the Twins showed no mercy in the nightcap against Detroit rookies Gregory Soto. Eddie Rosario, who broke an 0-for-29 Target Field slump with a single in the first game, had three hits in the second, while Mitch Garver tripled home a run and Cron knocked in three.