There’s been both a pervasive feeling that Pablo Lopez should be pitching better than he’s pitching, and that the Detroit Tigers should not be giving the Twins as much trouble as they have been.
Those feelings would bubble to the top in a slow-death second inning for Detroit, who had batters reach in five of six plate appearances — all walks and singles — to stake a 3-0 lead on Minnesota.
The dulcet tones of Jason Benetti and A.J. Pierzynski would breeze the game along through its middle innings; the Twins, largely kept off the board, and the Tigers, starting to lose it against Pablo Lopez, who would rally back to strike out 10 Detroit hitters through his six innings of work.
Then, some life; Carlos Correa’s 11th homer of the year, a solo shot into left-center, would break Minnesota’s scoreless streak.
A batter later, a deflected single from Alex Kirilloff would bring Byron Buxton up as the tying run. But as soon as some life crept into the equation, Twins fans would be holding their breath; Buxton grounded into a double play, and came into first slowly, holding a hip.
But the rallies weren’t over.
With two outs in the visiting seventh, Joey Gallo unloaded on a center-field blast, his 12th circuit-shot of the season, pulling Minnesota to within a run. Right behind him came a Ryan Jeffers double down the line, but Ryan would be stranded at second on a bat-shattering groundout off the lumber of Michael A. Taylor.
So, it was with a slim 3-2 margin that the Tigers carried a lead into the twilight of the game.
Earlier concerns were confirmed when Willi Castro came in to pinch-hit for Buxton with Correa aboard and two outs in the top of the eighth; the book on Buxton is currently “back spamss.” Castro would deliver a pinch-hit single, setting up the highest-leverage threat of the game for Minnesota, and forcing skipper A.J. Hinch to play his “Alex Lange” card. Unbeknownst to him, this activated Rocco Baldelli’s trap card — the elusive Donnie Bats. Donnie would indeed Bats, dunking a booted looper off the hands of third baseman Nick Maton and jamming the bags.
With the bases loaded, two outs, and Royce Lewis hitting, it was do-or-die time for Minnesota. Multiple close-call checked swings helped Lewis to work the count full, but a foul-tipped curveball would get Lewis on strikes and really harsh my enjoyment of FOX’s Paramore outro music.
Further concerns were raised when, with a runner aboard and one out in the innings, Jose De Leon was brought in to relieve Pagan. On his second-to-last warmup pitch, De Leon buckled, grabbed his throwing arm, and jogged straight from the mound and into the dugout with the trainers.
Twins have officially announced right elbow soreness for José De León, but more to come postgame.— Do-Hyoung Park (@dohyoungpark) June 25, 2023
So, it was with a somber atmosphere and an elongated on-field warmup that Jordan Balazovic entered for his second career appearance; a couple of groundouts would finally bring the eighth inning to an end.
Lange returned for the ninth inning, having sat through an unconventional eighth, for about 30 minutes between pitches. He befuddled Gallo with curveballs, then dished a four-pitch free pass to Ryan Jeffers. Pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer would go down hacking, and Edouard Julien — not quite struck out on a 1-2 pitch, though Comerica’s lighting operator seemed to think so — would fan on a 2-2 curve and lock in a 3-2 final.
The series will wrap up tomorrow, in an accelerated Sunday affair that has been pushed up to just after 11 am central. Get the coffee on, and we’ll see you there!
SS Carlos Correa (2-for-4, R, RBI, HR)
2B Edouard Julien (0-for-5, 3 K)
DH Byron Buxton (0-for-3, K)
CF Michael A. Taylor (0-for-3, 2 K)
ROBOT ROLL CALL:
America’s uncle provides an accurate assessment of the 2023 Twins.