Double in 9th rallies Twins past Tigers
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota went scoreless against another Detroit starter, and the top of the Tigers lineup was constantly on base.
This time, the Twins finished the rally they failed to complete on opening day. And the last guy off the bench got it done.
Eduardo Escobar’s two-run double with one out in the ninth inning lifted the Twins to a 3-2 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday.
“You lose the first game, and some people think the world is going to end,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “But you get a lot of chances to win baseball games. ... You just have to keep playing, and that’s what we did today. It’s a big boost out there to get a win under your belt against a great team over there. That was fun baseball.”
After Joaquin Benoit issued a leadoff walk to Trevor Plouffe, reliever Phil Coke took over in the ninth. Coke (0-1) recorded the first out, but Brian Dozier’s single advanced pinch-runner Jamey Carroll to third. Then Escobar drove a first-pitch fastball from to the deepest part of the park, where it bounced on the warning track in front of the bullpens in left-center field.
Both runners scored easily as the rebuilding Twins enjoyed their first on-field celebration of the season. They also spoiled another strong Tigers pitching performance, this one by Anibal Sanchez after Justin Verlander threw five shutout innings on Monday.
“He hit it a lot better than I thought,” Detroit center fielder Austin Jackson said. “I didn’t think it was going out. I kept running, and it seemed like it kept carrying.”
The AL Central champion Tigers began the season without a set closer after Jose Valverde wasn’t brought back. Coke has been the head of the committee so far. The left-hander notched a two-up, two-down save in the opener.
“That’s our plan when we’re facing a closer: Get up there ready to hit,” Dozier said.
Darin Downs also allowed a run in the sixth on pinch-hitter Wilkin Ramirez’s double, after Tigers relievers gave up runs in shaky sixth and seventh innings on Monday.
Valverde, a three-time All-Star who struggled in the playoffs, became a free agent and wasn’t re-signed. Hard-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon was sent to Triple-A. So the bullpen became the biggest concern of the spring for the Tigers in their attempt to return to the World Series — and win it this time.
The gametime temperature was 46 degrees, up 11 from the opener, but the afternoon winds were still whipping across the diamond. The announced attendance was 22,963, the smallest crowd in terms of tickets sold since Target Field opened in 2010.
Sanchez surrendered two hits and three walks while striking out five, a line almost identical to Verlander’s on opening day.
Detroit star Miguel Cabrera, the reigning American League MVP and Triple Crown winner, has driven in three runs in two games. He hit a pair of two-out RBI singles, one in the third and one in the fifth. Torii Hunter, the former Twins star, has adjusted well to the No. 2 spot in the batting order with his new team. He hit opposite-field singles right before Cabrera’s run-scoring hits.
But Twins starter Kevin Correia otherwise had a fine AL debut. The right-hander got the first two outs in each of those innings. Correia, signed as a free agent after spending the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, finished seven innings and was charged with seven hits and one walk.
Jared Burton pitched a perfect eighth and Glen Perkins (1-0) needed only 10 pitches in a perfect ninth inning for the victory.
“I could’ve got pinched-hit for in my other league,” Correia said. “In one of those games where you’re down 2-0, I probably would’ve got pinched-hit for in the fifth or sixth, so it’s nice to have that leeway in order to go back out there.”
The Twins had only three hits until the final inning. They scored in the seventh when Plouffe drew a leadoff walk against Downs, stole second and came home when Ramirez, a former Tigers prospect who played 15 games for Detroit in 2009, sent a ground ball down the first-base line that eluded Prince Fielder’s reach.
Escobar’s was even bigger.
“I am happy,” he said with Ramirez translating. “We don’t start the game, so we got to prepare for a situation like this. We are the lucky ones today, me and Wilkin.”
Notes: The previous attendance low at Target Field was last Sept. 10, a crowd of 27,526 for a game against Cleveland. ... Cabrera has 29 RBIs in 29 career games at Target Field. ... Ramirez’s RBI was his first in the majors since July 24, 2011, with Atlanta. He’s 5 for 12 in his career as a pinch hitter.