Buxton helps hot Twins knock off Tigers
DETROIT — The Minnesota Twins may not be in front of the Cleveland Indians, their next opponent, but they are some six weeks ahead of last year.
Minnesota matched its 2016 total of 59 wins Sunday thanks to Byron Buxton’s tiebreaking line single to center with one out in the eighth inning that keyed a two-run rally that gave the Twins a 6-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers and their seventh win in eight games.
“I’m familiar with that number,” Minnesota manager Paul Molitor said of equaling the win total from a year ago. “It’s amazing the difference a year makes. We’re still looking at (46) games to go. We’re in much better position.”
Reliever Bruce Rondon (1-3) threw nine pitches, just one a strike, at the start of the eighth.
Not only was he yanked for Warwick Saupold after the two walks, he found himself headed for the I-75 construction detour to Toledo after the game.
“We’re just trying to keep the score where it was at that point,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said, “and he couldn’t do it. That was going to be his inning, but when none of the first four pitches were even close, I knew I had to get Saupold throwing.”
Saupold gave up a sacrifice bunt and Buxton’s RBI single to give the Twins a 5-4 lead. Ehire Adrianza followed with a sacrifice fly to left for a 6-4 edge.
“Late in the game, they came back and they found a way to get even,” Molitor said. “We got a couple runners there in scoring position with the benefit of a couple walks and a nice bunt. Buck (Buxton) had a good at-bat. He fell behind but he poked one out into center which was a huge hit.
“I had Joe (Mauer) ready to hit (for Adrianza) but once we took the lead I was comfortable with Adrianza going ahead trying to get the run in first and third there. He did a really good job of battling with two strikes and adding the insurance run which you always need there.”
Tyler Duffey (2-3) picked up the win for the Twins with a scoreless seventh plus two outs in the eighth. Rookie Trevor Hildenberger retired Justin Upton to end the eighth and stayed on for the ninth to get his first major league save.
“That was the third day in a row for Hildie,” Molitor said. “He said he felt great, so I wanted to ride with him there as long as I could. I had Matty (Belisle) and Rog (Taylor Rogers) ready in case I got the right matchup.
“Will Hildie close again? Possible. On any given day. It’s a rotating mix right now. I’d like to get it settled a little bit.”
Ervin Santana was replaced after a freaky fifth inning in which the Tigers tied the score at 4-4, with three passed balls by catcher Chris Gimenez playing a key part. Santana gave up seven hits, struck out six and walked two.
A Detroit runner also reached base on an error by first baseman Miguel Sano so only the second of the three runs were earned. Two runs scored on passed balls, and Nicholas Castellanos singled in the third after a wild pitch advanced runners to second and third.
“I haven’t watched an inning like that for a while up here,” Molitor said. “It was tough. He’s a solid catcher. It was a poor inning for us. And we paid the price by giving up three runs.”
Ausmus could only shake his head.
“That’s not the normal way to get a three-run rally,” Ausmus said, “but we’ll take it. We’ve shown again in the last two days that we will do whatever it takes to get back into a game. This time, we just didn’t get enough.”
Detroit got four hits in the fourth but only one run, on a sacrifice fly John Hicks, as Santana got two strikeouts to leave the bases loaded. That trimmed Minnesota’s lead to 4-1.
Matthew Boyd lasted two outs into the sixth for the Tigers, allowing four runs on six hits — including two home runs — with five strikeouts.
Sano hit his 26th home run, a drive to left, with a man on in the third to open up a 4-0 lead for Minnesota. Brian Dozier singled and was forced at second prior to the home run.
“Sano got one out even though I don’t think he hit it particularly well,” Molitor said. “I don’t know if he used his knuckles or the handle.”
Eddie Rosario singled and Giminez walked to open the Twins second. Jorge Polanco sacrificed both runners up a base and Rosario scored on a squeeze bunt by Buxton to make it 2-0.
Dozier opened the game by hitting his 23rd home run, his sixth leading off a game this year and the 25th of his career, to get Minnesota off to a 1-0 start. The ball went to left field.
After the game, Detroit optioned Rondon back to Triple-A Toledo to make room for the Monday activation of starter Michael Fulmer. That means Drew VerHagen will go from the rotation to the bullpen, where Ausmus believes he fits better.
NOTES: The Tigers designated RHP Edward Mujica for assignment Sunday and purchased the contract of RHP Jeff Ferrell from Triple-A Toledo to replace him. ... Twins manager Paul Molitor set his rotation for Cleveland from Tuesday through Thursday. RHP Bartolo Colon will open, followed by RHP Kyle Gibson and RHP Jose Berrios. ... LHP Daniel Norris (groin) of Detroit will begin a rehab assignment Wednesday, throwing about 45 pitches for Triple-A Toledo. ... Rookie LHP Dietrich Enns was available to relieve Sunday and will make his next start Saturday against Arizona.