Twins complete sweep of Tigers
McClatchy News Services
MINNEAPOLIS — The Detroit Tigers had to wonder how much the Twins would miss the Metrodome this season, especially after Detroit lost 14 of its final 19 games in there, including one of the greatest games ever played under the Teflon roof. That's why Wednesday's 5-4 victory at Target Field was particularly satisfying for the Twins.
After dropping two of three games at Detroit last week, the Twins completed their first three-game sweep and pushed the second-place Tigers 3½ games back in the American League Central.
"We don't want them to feel like they're comfortable coming in here just because it's a new building," first baseman Justin Morneau said. "It's still our home. We still want that home-field advantage, and it's good to set the tone like we did."
Detroit came in riding a five-game winning streak, and the Twins played the entire series without reigning MVP Joe Mauer, but that didn't stop them from putting the Tigers in a quick hole in each game.
After scoring four first-inning runs against Max Scherzer on Monday and two against Dontrelle Wills on Tuesday, the Twins repeated the pattern, jumping on Rick Porcello (2-3) for two first-inning runs. It marked the sixth consecutive game the Twins have scored at least two first-inning runs, something no team has done since Bobby Murcer and the Yankees did it for seven straight games in 1971.
"The old saying around here is 'Be ready, first inning'" manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've got such a good lineup at the top, they know how to work counts and get on base."
Following last Thursday's 3-0 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park, starting pitcher Carl Pavano said he thought the team's energy level hadn't been as high for day games. The Twins had missed three chances at April sweeps with afternoon losses and came out flat against the Tigers, dropping their first series. Since then, the Twins are 2-0 in afternoon games, including Sunday's victory at Cleveland.
"I drank a 5-hour Energy today," said center fielder Denard Span, who had three of the Twins' seven hits. "My energy was probably a little better. I saw Cuddyer drinking one, too. Maybe we've gotta pass those things around to get us going because day games have been our Achilles' heel."
At 19-9, the Twins are off to their best 28-game start since they were 20-8 in 2001. They are 9-3 in their new ballpark, which has its challenges, even without a roof.
The Tigers misplayed two fly balls late last season at the Metrodome, including Michael Cuddyer's 10th-inning triple in Game 163, a ball left fielder Ryan Raburn misjudged after losing it in the lights.
On Wednesday, players battled wind gusts of up to 37 miles per hour. With the Twins leading 3-2 in the fourth inning, Tigers right fielder Brennan Boesch missed a running catch on Nick Punto's slicing fly ball, leading to two unearned runs.
The 5-2 lead proved enough for the Twins, as Kevin Slowey (4-2) and four relievers sealed the victory. Detroit hit four home runs — two by Miguel Cabrera and two by Alex Avila — but all came with the bases empty.
"For us to beat them we can't play (like) we did this week," said Tigers left fielder Johnny Damon. "We didn't hit like we wanted to, except for a couple of guys. Our defense was horrendous."
The teams won't meet again until the Tigers return to Target Field, June 28-30.
"I don't think anybody's going to go away," Gardenhire said. "Those guys are a really good baseball team."