MINNEAPOLIS -- After a lull in mid-August, Detroit's offense is starting to heat up. The Tigers stayed hot against the Twins, reaching eight runs for a fourth straight game in an 8-5 win to complete a three-game sweep at Target Field on Thursday.
It moved the Tigers two games back of the second American League Wild Card spot and was Detroit's fourth straight win, while Minnesota has lost seven in a row.
"Maybe it was the start of it, but I'd like to see [the bats] keep rolling since we have Anaheim coming in," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's how this team is built -- it's built to slug. Our pitching is solid, especially in the second half, but we're built to slug, and it's nice to see it."
The Tigers beat up on rookie right-hander Jose Berrios, scoring three runs in both the second and third innings. Detroit capitalized on a throwing error from Brian Dozier in the second with Ian Kinsler connecting on a two-run double. James McCann provided the offense in the third with a three-run homer to right-center field. The Tigers tacked on two more runs against reliever Michael Tonkin in the sixth on a double from Victor Martinez.
"I tried to throw it down in the zone," Berrios said of McCann's homer. "I was behind in the count, so I had to throw a strike."
The offense backed left-hander Daniel Norris, who went 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on six hits. The Twins didn't score until the sixth on an RBI single from Robbie Grossman. They later added an RBI single from Eduardo Escobar in the seventh and Max Kepler's two-run double capped a three-run eighth, but it wasn't enough with Berrios allowing six runs (five earned) on six hits and five walks over five innings.
"I knew they were going to swing early," Norris said. "That's kind of how they've been doing it this series, so I was just going play right into that and let them get themselves out. When I needed a strikeout, I went and got it. Early in the game, I wasn't feeling very good, and I just had to go out there and grind. That's part of it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Norris twirls a gem: The left-hander has been a pleasant surprise since he rejoined the rotation on Aug. 9 and has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his four August starts. The 6 1/3 innings were a season high for Norris, who struck out five Twins and didn't issue a walk, retiring 11 straight hitters at one point. He dropped his August ERA to 2.91 on Thursday and picked up his first win of the month after his offense finally gave him some run support.
"It was probably his best outing of the year," Ausmus said. "As a young pitcher, you almost have to learn how to pitch deeper into games. His pitch count was down, and it can be a mental hurdle pitching deeper into games. I don't know if that's the case with him." More >
Berrios continues struggles: Berrios is one of the game's top pitching prospects and at 22 years old it's too early to worry, but he's had a rough start to his career. Berrios had a 2.44 ERA in 16 starts at Triple-A, but he has a 9.24 ERA in nine Major League starts. He's had trouble with his control and walked five batters Thursday. He was optioned to Triple-A Rochester after the outing.
"I was surprised, but I understand the decision," Berrios said. "They want me to go down there and gain more confidence. I want to take advantage of my starts in Rochester and do what I can to get back up here." More >
McCann flexes his muscles: McCann went 4-for-5 and finished a triple shy of the cycle as he recorded the first four-hit game of his career. After hitting a single in the second and scoring on Kinsler's two-run double, McCann pushed the Tigers' lead to 6-0 in the third with a long three-run homer to right-center field, his 11th dinger of the season, which traveled an estimated 428 feet, per Statcast™.
"Something I really worked on this offseason was staying through the ball a little bit more and developing that power the other way," McCann said. "Early in the season after the [right ankle sprain], I wasn't allowing myself to use my hands. I wasn't allowing myself, my body as I trained it, to work. The adjustments I've made have all been to allow that to happen."
He added a double to left-center field in the fifth and a single in the ninth but couldn't find the elusive three-bagger, which would have been just his second triple of the season.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say that [the triple] crossed my mind, but at the end of the day, early on, in my at-bats early, I was just trying to hit it hard," McCann said. "I made a point just to stick with the same approach. If [the cycle] happened, it happened. If not, then it is what it is. I wouldn't say that I changed my approach to try to hit a triple or anything."
Minnesota's offense awakens late: The Twins couldn't do much against Norris, but they finally got on the board in the sixth on the RBI single from Grossman. They scored again in the seventh on Escobar's RBI single, but they didn't break through until the three-run eighth. Grossman plated a run an RBI groundout against reliever Kyle Ryan, and after a double from Miguel Sano, lefty Justin Wilson came in to face Kepler. Kepler was able to rip a two-run double to make it a three-run game.
"I don't know, maybe he should not feel good physically from now on." -- Kinsler, upon hearing that Norris wasn't feeling well during his start
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: The Tigers will return home to open a three-game series against the Angels on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Justin Verlander (13-7, 3.38 ERA) will take the mound and has thrown eight consecutive quality starts. Verlander owns a 2-1 record and 2.42 ERA in August after having earned AL Pitcher of the Month honors in July.
Twins: The Twins head to Toronto for a three-game series that starts on Friday at 6:07 p.m. CT. Left-hander Pat Dean (1-3, 5.48 ERA) will make a spot start for the Twins with fellow lefty Hector Santiago's scheduled start pushed back because of a bruised left thumb.