Power display unable to bail out Below, Tigers

Power display unable to bail out Below, Tigers

Power display unable to bail out Below, Tigers
DETROIT -- The last time Duane Below was scheduled to make a spot start -- on April 30 against the Royals -- the Tigers had what still stands as their only rainout of the season. On Tuesday, Mother Nature nearly washed away another one.

After an hour and a half delay before the start of the game, Below finally took the mound for his 2012 debut as a starter. It didn't go quite as planned, as the Tigers lost, 8-6, to the Twins.

"It's not really the start I wanted to have," said Below, who lasted only 2 2/3 innings in place of an injured Max Scherzer. "I wanted to pick up the team and help Max out."

The Twins pegged the lefty for five runs on five hits, although only a first-inning run was earned. Ben Revere and Joe Mauer hit back-to-back singles, and manager Ron Gardenhire called for the double steal, which put both runners in scoring position. Left fielder Josh Willingham hit a sacrifice fly to left to score the game's first run.

Revere went 2-for-2 with two runs and a stolen base against Below, and he also forced a balk that started a rally in the third inning. Revere's speed appeared to get in Below's head and certainly made a difference in the game.

"I faced [Revere] in Double-A," Below said. "Even last year, he's ready to go any time. He always continues to go and I knew he was going to go at some point. ... I needed to do a better job of holding him on."

The Tigers' offense backed their starter with a three-run second inning off Twins starter Nick Blackburn. Prince Fielder and Alex Avila singled before Ryan Raburn hit a game-tying RBI double.

Brennan Boesch, who recorded only one RBI in his previous 13 games, followed with a two-run single.

"I definitely was consciously trying to get a good pitch," Boesch said. "I just wanted to make sure today that I wasn't going to give any at-bats away. ... I'm fighting and doing everything I can to try to hit the ball."

The two-run lead proved to be temporary as the wheels fell off Below's outing in the third. He recorded two quick outs before a single by Revere, a balk and an error by Ramon Santiago put runners at the corners. A two-run shot off the bat of Willingham made it a 4-3 game.

Santiago came into the day with only two errors on the season, but his total doubled in the game. Although it was marked as Santiago's fault, Below blamed himself.

"I should've made that play. That was a one-hopper over my head," he said. "That's a tough play for Santiago to make having to cover that hole."

Jose Ortega, recalled from Triple-A Toledo for Tuesday's game, took over and served Trevor Plouffe's 19th homer of the season, handing Minnesota a three-run lead.

The Tigers battled back off Blackburn in the bottom of the fourth with a pair of their own homers. Boesch hit an opposite-field solo shot, his first since June 13, and two batters later, Austin Jackson went deep to tie the game.

"I can't do anything right right now," Blackburn said. "The fourth inning I go out and give up the home runs; that's been the story of the season for me so far."

While Blackburn will try to forget Tuesday's game, Boesch will try repeating his success. In his last 52 at-bats, Boesch had only seven hits. He busted out of his slump, finishing 3-for-4 with three RBIs.

"Anytime you get three hits and a home run, it's momentum to build," he said. "Can't really enjoy it for too long, but you can bring it into the next day and use it as momentum to try to get some consistency."

Brayan Villarreal replaced Ortega following 2 1/3 innings of one-hit, one-run ball. He loaded the bases in the seventh inning on two doubles and an intentional walk. Ryan Doumit hit the go-ahead sacrifice fly to center field with one out.

Mauer tacked on an insurance run with his fifth home run of the year off Joaquin Benoit in the ninth inning.

The Tigers are back to three games under .500, and they'll need to win their next five games to finish above .500 at the All-Star break. And with tonight marking game No. 81, the Tigers own sub-.500 record at the halfway point for the first time under manager Jim Leyland.

"We all want it. We're all want to win," Below said. "It's not like we're showing up and just going through the motions. Everyone comes here every day and wants to play hard and win. Yeah, it's halfway point, but we're only 4 1/2 [games] back [in the American League Central], so that's the good thing about it. As soon as we get hot, we're a team that is going to be scary."

Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.