Twins let one slip away
By Jon Krawczynski, AP Baseball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Before the final game of a six-game road trip that would have been deemed successful no matter the outcome of the finale, Detroit manager Jim Leyland walked around to each of his hitters with a quiet message.
"Don't give this one away," he told Brandon Inge, Victor Martinez and the rest of the Tigers.
Consider the message received.
Inge hit an RBI triple off the center field wall in the ninth inning to lift the Tigers to their fifth win in a row, 9-7 over the slumping Minnesota Twins on Wednesday.
Inge's big hit off Twins closer Matt Capps (1-2) scored Ramon Santiago, and Austin Jackson followed with a squeeze bunt. Jose Valverde got his eighth save in eight tries for a Tigers team that is starting to find its groove after a lackluster start.
"Pretty nice trip. If it ends up 4-2, that's OK," Leyland said. "But they never gave in. They wanted to go home 5-1 and they did."
Jhonny Peralta had a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the eighth inning and Victor Martinez went 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBIs for the Tigers, extending his hitting streak to 11 games for Detroit, which had slugger Miguel Cabrera ejected in the sixth inning.
Jason Kubel had two hits and four RBIs, including a three-run homer in the seventh inning that put the Twins ahead 6-5. But Capps gave up three runs in 12/3 innings as the Twins lost their fifth straight.
Joaquin Benoit (1-2) allowed one unearned run in 12/3 innings of relief to get the win for the Tigers, who have won eight of nine after a seven-game skid to keep from falling too far behind Cleveland in the AL Central.
Cabrera added a two-run double for the Tigers, but was ejected in the sixth inning after arguing a called third strike from home plate umpire Vic Carapazza.
It was the second time he'd been called out looking in the game, and the slugger gestured up and down with his arm to mimic his perception of the strike zone to earn the immediate ejection.
"He called me high and now he comes in with a low pitch," Cabrera said. "I just tried to figure out the strike zone. I don't say nothing bad."
The outburst looked to be costly when Peralta came to the plate in the eighth inning against Capps. But Peralta sent the second pitch soaring into the left field stands for a 7-6 lead.
"It was a good thing," Cabrera joked about his ejection. "Bring in Peralta and he hit a home run!"
The Tigers defense kicked around a sharply hit double by Matt Tolbert in the eighth, with errors by right fielder Brennan Boesch and Santiago at shortstop allowing Ben Revere to score from first and tie the game at 7. But the Twins couldn't get the go-ahead run in from third base with one out.
Starter Scott Baker gave up five runs on six hits with five walks and six strikeouts in 41/3 innings for the Twins, who walked 17 batters in the two-game series.
"That's just not throwing it over," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Got to have courage, too. Courage is throwing the ball over the plate and making them swing the bat, and hopefully we'll catch it. Sometimes you back away and you shy away, and that's not good enough, especially at the end of the ballgame."
The injury-plagued Twins scored more than five runs for just the third time this season. Justin Morneau had two hits and Kubel's blast was the first three-run homer by the Twins all season.
Martinez's hitting streak includes six doubles, two homers and 14 RBIs. He's batting .500 (20 for 40) during the run.
"He's a tremendous presence on the team," Leyland said. "He's got energy. He's got fire. ... He comes the way you're supposed to come. He comes to beat the other team."
NOTES: Tigers starter Phil Coke gave up two runs on five hits in 52/3 innings and left with a 5-2 lead. ... Tigers LHP Daniel Schlereth served up the homer to Kubel and a double to Morneau in the seventh. ... The Twins said LF Delmon Young (oblique) was scheduled to play six innings in extended spring training in Fort Myers, Fla., on Wednesday. DH Jim Thome (oblique) and INF Tsuyoshi Nishioka (broken leg) were scheduled to take batting practice. ... Even Baker's start wasn't enough to get struggling Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez off the bench. Ordonez, who is hitting .172 this year, did not play despite a .469 career average (23 for 49) against Baker.