Minneapolis – Six games, two rainouts, one doubleheader and, to cap it off, a rain-delayed, 4-hour, 17-minute, 12-inning, 15-pitcher marathon.
“The sun is going to be coming out when we get back to Detroit,” manager Brad Aumus said.
That’s what happens when the trip ends happily.
Ian Kinsler singled home a run in the top of the 12th inning and J.D. Martinez followed with his 37th home run to give the Tigers a 7-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins in a game that started Wednesday and ended Thursday morning.
“Any win is a big win, but especially this one, with all the ups and downs,” catcher James McCann said. “That was a rollercoaster of a game, but the fight this team showed, that’s huge.”
Lefty Ian Krol was the pitching hero for the Tigers. He replaced Jose Valdez with two on and no outs in the 10th inning. After falling behind 3-0, he came back to strike out Joe Mauer, then proceeded to retire seven straight Twins.
In the 12th, He walked Aaron Hicks with one out but got Brian Dozier to hit into a double play to end the game.
“That’s a high-leverage situation right there,” McCann said. “Him coming out, having the success that he had, you hope he can build off that. It just shows you the stuff he has. First and second, nobody out and he gets us out of that jam and then he finds a way to go three innings – that’s big-time.”
Ausmus had one arm left in the bullpen – Jeff Ferrell.
“We extended (Krol) a little bit,” Ausmus said. “He had gone two-plus inning in Toledo so it wasn’t like he hadn’t been there. But it’s different when it’s extra innings and you are trying to hold on to a tie and then a lead.
“I’m hoping this might be a turning point for him.”
The win secured the Tigers’ first road series win since they took a two-game set from the Cubs Aug. 18-19. They went 3-3 on the trip.
They used eight different relievers for 8-1/3 innings after starter Daniel Norris looked razor sharp in his 47-pitch, 3-2/3-inning stint – his first since he went on the disabled list Aug. 20.
“I just went out and tried to control my adrenaline and make the most out of every pitch,” said Norris, who wasn’t going to be allowed to throw more than 50 pitches. “Dating back to my last three starts, my velocity has been back. It’s fun going out there and pitching with good stuff and being able to compete.”
There didn’t appear to be a speck of rust on him. He commanded his mid-90s fastball, as well as his slider and two change-ups. The only blemish was a doozy – a 403-foot home run by Eddie Rosario into the second deck in right-center.
He ended his short night by carving up Joe Mauer – a slow change-up (83 mph) for strike two, then his harder change-up (88) for strike three. He left the game with a 2-1 lead.
The seesaw started in the bottom of the seventh when the Twins scored twice off reliever Drew VerHagen to take a 3-2 lead.
After pitching a scoreless sixth inning, VerHagen’s troubles in the seventh started with a leadoff walk to Mauer. He got two strikes on Miguel Sano, both off-speed pitches, but tried to sneak a fastball by him on a 2-2 pitch and Sano doubled over the third-base bag.
He struck out Plouffe, but Torii Hunter lined a single off the glove of diving third baseman Jefry Marte’s glove to tie the game.
Blaine Hardy replaced VerHagen and gave up the go-ahead run on a two-strike single to Rosario. Of the last 17 runners Hardy’s inherited, nine have scored.
The Tigers didn’t get a runner to second base from the second through the eighth inning. But in the ninth, off fill-in closer Kevin Jepsen, Marte, a late add to the lineup after Nick Castellanos’ groin tightened before the game, singled home a pair of runs to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
It lasted two batters. In the bottom of the ninth, closer Bruce Rondon walked Sano to start the inning after he got ahead 0-2. A passed ball by McCann moved him to third. Trevor Plouffe then doubled him home.
“We’re trying to test him,” Ausmus said of Rondon. “He’s got the look you want for a late-inning guy. He’s not afraid of hitters. He’s attacking hitters. He just has trouble with commanding the ball.”
Rondon gathered himself enough to get out of the ninth and get the game to extra innings.
After Plouffe was bunted to third, Rondon walked Rosario intentionally. The Tigers got the second out of the inning at home plate. Shortstop Andrew Romine threw out Plouffe on an infield grounder by Kurt Suzuki.
Rondon then got Eduardo Escobar to fly out to shallow center.
“Everyone in a Tigers uniform with the exception of just a couple of players pitched in,” Ausmus said. “It was without question a complete team win.”
BY Chris McCosky, The Detroit News