DETROIT – If the Tigers were in another division, the Twins might be in first place. But unless the geography changes, it’s hard to picture Minnesota’s standing changing much, either.
Minnesota concluded its Central-heavy stretch of schedule Thursday with a 12-7 record against the Royals, White Sox and Indians — and a 2-7 mark against the Tigers that feels a lot more lopsided than that. Anibal Sanchez held the Twins to five singles in eight innings, Detroit launched nine extra-base hits to some far-off reaches of Comerica Park and the Tigers blasted the Twins 13-1.
The game was reminiscent of the Twins’ opening-week slaughter, except it was a little worse. The Twins, victimized 22-1 over those three games in April, did manage to score a run off Sanchez, but they committed errors in the field, swung at bad pitches at the plate and watched baseball after baseball crash against the outfield walls — or sail over them. Detroit hit four home runs (two by Miguel Cabrera), matched the Twins’ back-to-back triple feat from the previous night, and doubled three times off Mike Pelfrey and three relievers.
“We didn’t contain very well,” manager Paul Molitor said after his team lost for the third time in four games to wrap up a 3-3 road trip. “We couldn’t get that pitch to get through an at-bat or an inning, and it seemed like the numbers kept going up.”
They got up to 13 runs, the most the Twins have allowed since last September, and 20 hits, the most the Twins have allowed since the September before that, and nine extra-base hits, the most they’ve allowed since … well, since the Tigers were in Target Field two weeks ago. See, it’s kind of a Detroit problem.
“We haven’t played the Tigers well,” said third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who had his first two-error game since last June 2. “They’re what’s holding us back right now.”
The Twins tried to remain upbeat, even after such a sloppy game, because a 3-3 road trip to Cleveland and Detroit, if not necessarily a success worth celebrating, isn’t exactly a disaster, either. In fact, “we’re happy with it,” Plouffe said. “We want to split on the road. … We’ll take 3-3 on the road if we keep playing the way we have at home,” where they are an AL-best 12-5.
Still, there are some issues to sort out. Mike Pelfrey remains the picture of inconsistency, for instance, this time surrendering 10 hits in just 4 ⅔ innings and requiring 95 pitches to get there. “The ball was a little flat today, up in the [strike] zone a lot more than I would have liked,” Pelfrey said. “I didn’t have that sink; I didn’t have any movement. If I get the ball down, those are ground balls.”
Brian Duensing gave up a single, a double and a home run to the first three hitters he faced, and while it’s the first time in six outings since returning from an intercostal injury that he has allowed a run, it’s also the sixth straight outing in which he has put runners on base.
The Twins’ young lineup didn’t do much against Sanchez, particularly outfielder Eddie Rosario, who struck out three times, and first baseman Kennys Vargas, who whiffed, hit into a double play and flied out.
“We talked about getting good pitches to hit, but he was aggressive with his fastball, particularly the first time around,” Molitor said. “When you start using the slider and changeup, we started expanding [the strike zone], especially the young guys.”
So maybe the best news to come out of Thursday’s game is this: The Twins don’t return to Comerica Park, where they are 1-5, until late September.
Perfect, said Plouffe.
“We’ve saved all our wins till then.”