By Jason Beck and Chris Vannini
MLB.com |@beckjason |
DETROIT -- For the second time in three weeks, the Tigers have found the answer to their struggles in a series against the Twins. Ian Kinsler's sixth-inning home run completed a three-hit, two-RBI day in support of Justin Verlander, whose 7 1/3 quality innings sent Detroit cruising to a three-game sweep of Minnesota with a 6-3 win Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park.
The Tigers began the series in a tailspin, having lost 11 of their last 13, but rebounded to outscore the Twins by a 23-13 margin for their second sweep of Minnesota this season. Wednesday's finale had little suspense after big innings propelled the Tigers in the previous two games.
"Feels a lot better than a week ago," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Previously, it was always one part of our game that was hurting us or beating us -- bullpen one day, starting pitching one day, the offense one day. Now we're getting those things to work together."
J.D. Martinez singled in Kinsler in the opening inning, then tripled and scored on a Miguel Cabrera sacrifice fly in the third. Three Twins errors set up two unearned runs off Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Verlander 2K in K's: Verlander's fourth-inning strikeout of Eddie Rosario was the 2,000th of his career. He became the 76th Major Leaguer to reach the milestone, and the second Tigers pitcher, joining Mickey Lolich. Verlander struck out nine of Minnesota's first 19 batters, including Miguel Sano with two runners on to end the third inning. Rosario struck out with a runner on second in the fourth. More >
Dozier denied: The Twins pulled within 6-3 in the eighth after a one-out single by Trevor Plouffe plated a pair. Brian Dozier then blasted a ball to left field, but it was just foul of the pole by a few feet, which was confirmed by replay. Instead of pulling the Twins within one run, Dozier struck out looking a few pitches later.
"To be honest, I still think it's fair," Dozier said. "I got all of it. I hit it as high as I probably could hit it. I know it landed foul. There's not a camera at the bottom of the foul pole. I still think it's fair. We have a good judge of distance when we hit home runs. Oh well."
Kinsler crushes another one: Kinsler homered for the fourth consecutive game when he took a Taylor Rogers pitch deep to left in the sixth. The home run streak is the longest by a Tigers hitter since Miguel Cabrera homered in four straight in 2013, and one shy of the five-game streak by Marcus Thames in '08 that stands as the team's longest since moving into Comerica Park in 2000.
"The last couple years I worked on a bunch of things that I felt like I needed to do to improve as a hitter to make better contact," said Kinsler, whose 10 home runs this year are one off his total from all of last season. "Sometimes you have to take a step back in certain aspects of your game to become a better hitter. And once you get comfortable with that, then you can start adding back the power aspect. That's basically where I'm at right now."
Mauer mowed down: The Twins threatened in the seventh, loading the bases with one out and trailing, 5-0. A sacrifice fly from Danny Santana scored one run, but Joe Mauer struck out swinging to end the threat. Mauer went 0-for-4 with a walk and two strikeouts.
"I've faced him pretty much my whole career," Mauer said of Verlander. "He's really evolved into a pitcher. When he first came up, he was more of a thrower, could get away with a lot of things. He was tough today."
"I definitely helped him with that. I'm expecting maybe a Casio watch out of that." -- Tigers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, an 11-time strikeout victim of Verlander, on the righty reaching 2,000 career strikeouts
"We talked a lot about the first inning and being ready. Some of the basic things you'd hope at this level -- we gotta catch the ball, hit the cutoff man -- those things jump out at you when you're playing poorly. Give extra bases, extra opportunities. It's a tough hole to dig for your starting pitching when you don't make plays early." -- Twins manager Paul Molitor, on his team's three errorsMore >
SUZUKI HIT BY FOUL TIP
Twins catcher Kurt Suzuki was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the ninth after taking a foul tip directly off the front of his catching mask in the previous frame. He's dealt with a number of those in the past month. Suzuki is one hit away from 1,000 for his career, but Molitor planned to pull him anyway.
"He took a direct hit, you see him buckle back," Molitor said. "I was going to pinch-hit for him anyway. He said he's fine. I'm sure he'll get looked at, because it got him pretty good."
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins return home for a seven-game homestand, beginning with four games against the Blue Jays. Ervin Santana (1-2, 3.38 ERA) takes the mound for the Twins on Thursday coming off his best start of the season, when he allowed one earned run over six innings at Cleveland. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. CT
Tigers: Detroit enjoys its first off-day in 2 1/2 weeks Thursday before opening a three-game weekend series against the Rays with a 7:10 p.m. ET game Friday at Comerica Park. Anibal Sanchez (3-4, 5.91 ERA) tries for his first win since April 28 and first quality start of the year opposite Matt Andriese (2-0, 0.56 ERA).