A homestand that could have been better ended with a win that could have been worse. The Twins will take both.
The Twins were outhit Sunday, scratching out a mere five hits against Tigers lefthander Matthew Boyd and two relievers. But two of those scarce hits cleared the Target Field fences with runners aboard, and the Twins walked away with a surprisingly encouraging 7-4 victory over Detroit.
The victory enabled the Twins to salvage a 3-3 split of their six-game homestand, not exactly what they hoped for a week’s worth of games against teams that entered the day a combined 52½ games out of first. But if anybody was worried about it, it never showed. After all, the Twins’ AL Central lead actually grew by a game during the homestand, reaching 3½ games Sunday when Cleveland lost to the Royals.
And October is now seven days closer.
“It was a feel-good type of day. There were a lot of positives to point to,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “I don’t want to say we were in need of that — we’ve been playing fine. Obviously, we want to win a few more games on a homestand, but [losses are] going to happen. Today was a very nice way to win it.”
Especially nice for Martin Perez, who continued his late-August turnaround. He limited the Tigers to five hits over six innings, though three of them — doubles by Jordy Mercer and John Hicks, and a two-out single by Harold Castro — came in the fifth inning, accounting for two runs. Still, it was Perez’s third consecutive satisfying start after a rough six-week stretch.
“He was definitely attacking today. Really, really good stuff,” catcher Mitch Garver said. “He gave up a few hits on some off-speed pitches that we’d like back, but the way he controlled the game at that point was pretty impressive.”
All for a good cause, Perez said.
“I just want to go to the playoffs. If I don’t get the win, [that’s OK], I just want to do my job so we can win,” said Perez, who has given up four earned runs over his past three starts, a 2.12 ERA. “Our one goal is to make the playoffs.”
The Tigers won’t be there, and Sunday’s self-sabotage was an example of why. Boyd, who has beaten the Twins six times in his career, struck out seven in six innings and gave up only four hits. But he got himself into trouble with control problems, walking a season-high five and hitting a batter, and the Twins turned those into extra fuel when the inevitable home run barrage began.
Two runners were on, for instance, when C.J. Cron crushed a low slider more than 410 feet over the center field fence, his 21st homer this season. And two innings later, Boyd walked Cron before Jonathan Schoop blasted a pitch just inside the left field foul pole, his 18th of the year. They were the 31st and 32nd home runs that Boyd has given up this season, second-most in the AL.
“He was pretty good. He was keeping us off-balance,” Cron said. “But we put together some good at-bats to get guys on base, and we capitalized. It was a good day, especially with how good his stuff was.”
Garver drove in the Twins’ first run with an RBI double, moved to third on a right-side grounder, and scored on Nelson Cruz’s daily run batted in — he drove in a run in five of the six games on this homestand, seven RBI overall — this time on another ground ball.
That was all the Twins got. That was all they needed.
“Obviously our offense wasn’t as potent as it normally is. But the hits we had were big ones,” Garver said. “We manufactured a run. We got some home runs. Just some clutch hitting.”
Enough of it to win a home series after dropping their past three.
“Every game is important from here on out,” Cron said. “We need to win series. We’ve put ourselves in a good position to accomplish some of the goals we set for ourselves before the season.”