Milone dominates for 8, Twins hold off Tigers in 9th
By Jason Beck and Kyle Beery
DETROIT -- An unexpected pitching duel between Tommy Milone and Anibal Sanchez broke out before the Twins busted out a five-run seventh inning, capped by a Brian Dozier two-run home run, for a 6-2 victory over the Tigers on Tuesday at Comerica Park.
The win was Minnesota's first over Detroit in eight tries this season.
Milone (3-2), pitching for the first time since his wife gave birth to their baby daughter last week, held a Detroit lineup stacked with right-handed bats to a James McCann single and two leadoff walks over his first eight innings before three consecutive singles rallied Detroit in the ninth. He induced 11 groundouts along the way to a season-best 8 1/3 innings.
"It is what it is. Milone threw the ball great," Victor Martinez said. "You have to give credit. He deserves credit. He did a great job."
Milone's work bought the Twins time to figure out Sanchez (5-11), whose 10 strikeouts marked his first venture into double digits since May 24 of last year. Back-to-back third-inning singles from Kurt Suzuki and Byron Buxton set up Eduardo Nunez for a sacrifice fly to open the scoring before Nunez's two-run single off Bruce Rondon helped break the game open in the seventh.
The Tigers' ninth-inning rally brought the potential tying run to the plate with the bases loaded before Brandon Kintzler struck out McCann and Jose Iglesias to end it.
"It got a little more interesting than we were hoping, given the six-run cushion, but [Kintzler] did a nice job," Twins manager Paul Molitor said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Heart and Hustle comes through: Nunez was named the Twins' recipient of the MLB Players Alumni Association's Heart and Hustle Award on Tuesday. He hustled for a bunt-single in the first inning, hit a sacrifice fly in the third and delivered a two-run single in the seventh that stretched the Twins' lead to 3-0. He then stole second base (his 23rd steal of the year) and came around to score.
Before Tuesday's game, Molitor called Nunez a "dirty player, in terms of his uniform." After the game, he was pleased to see Nunez's selection as the award recipient validated by a dirty uniform.
"[Nunez] did a good job of getting a run in with the sacrifice fly, and we got [Sanchez] up there a little bit in the pitch count and we were able to get a hit and a walk to start off the [seventh] inning, and they had to make a change," Molitor said.
No relief: What has normally been a treacherous third trip through opposing batting orders looked easy for Sanchez, who struck out six Twins in a seven-batter span in the fifth and sixth innings. A leadoff walk in the seventh and a Suzuki single ended Sanchez's night at exactly 100 pitches. With a 1-0 deficit, manager Brad Ausmus turned to Rondon, who couldn't get a high strike call on Nunez before he laced his two-run single back up the middle. Rondon gave up three runs on three hits while recording just two outs.
"I just felt Rondon was the guy there," said Ausmus. "First and second, he's got the ability to get a strikeout and help get out of the inning. It just didn't work."
Milone great for eight: Milone had limited the Tigers' high-powered offense to just one hit entering the ninth inning, but allowed three singles to lead off the inning. Martinez knocked in Cameron Maybin, and one batter later, Nick Castellanos ended Milone's night with a sacrifice fly, making it a 6-2 game. Milone's 8 1/3 innings made for his longest outing of the season, and his longest since joining the Twins in 2014.
Molitor said he was more confident in sending Milone out for the ninth inning after the Twins added five runs in the seventh.
"If he was good, he was going back out," Molitor said. "I felt comfortable. Pitch count wasn't really an issue. It was a nice night to pitch. I might as well give him a chance there to see if he could finish it off."
Welcome to Comerica Park: One night after Justin Upton hit his 200th career home run midway up the left-field seats, he experienced the flip side of Comerica Park's dimensions. His seventh-inning drive to left-center traveled 418 feet, according to Statcast™, but made it only to the warning track and the waiting glove of Buxton.
"Always the fans here are really good. They support us as a team. They're always there for us, and sometimes they deserve more than what we can do, especially myself. I'm turning around everything. I just want to continue to throw the ball like that the rest of the year and bring some wins." -- Sanchez
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Kintzler has faced Ian Kinsler twice in his career, both in 2013 when Kintzler was a Brewers reliever and Kinsler was in Texas. Kinsler grounded out against Kintzler May 7 of that year before singling off him Aug. 13. Kinsler was on deck Tuesday when Kintzler struck out Iglesias.
The Twins used their challenge early, going to replay to look at a caught stealing call on Nunez at second base following his single to lead off the game. The call stood after a review of one minute and 17 seconds, giving Sanchez a much-needed first out.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins:Ervin Santana (3-8, 4.12 ERA) gets the start in Wednesday's 12:10 p.m. CT series finale against Detroit. He has not faced the Tigers this season, but is 9-3 with a 3.27 ERA in his career against them.
Tigers:Justin Verlander (9-6, 3.91) takes the mound to close out the series and homestand Wednesday at 1:10 p.m. ET, looking for his third win in four starts this month. He beat the Twins with 10 strikeouts over 7 ⅓ quality innings on May 18 at Comerica Park.