MINNEAPOLIS — For the first time in five weeks, the Tigers won consecutive games. Think about this: The team favored to run away with the division hadn’t won back-to-back games since April 18.
Detroit finally broke the pattern on a rainy afternoon today at Target Field by beating the Twins, 6-3. Remarkably, the Tigers are just two games below .500 at 22-24.
They got there because of a solid performance from Max Scherzer, a strikeout-rich effort from a 38-year-old reliever and a six-hit rally in the fifth inning that hung a four-spot on Minnesota.
The Tigers have put forth plenty of effective starting pitching this season and have even offered up a few tidy collaborations from the bullpen.
What the team hasn’t done is hit, especially when runners are on base, especially in the middle of a tie game when a couple of breakthrough runs can be so damaging.
Yet here was Alex Avila lining a sharp single to rightfield in the top of the fifth with one out. And here was Ramon Santiago following with a single of his own. And Quintin Berry busting the 2-2 tie with another single.
On it went, a two-run, double from Andy Dirks, an RBI single from Miguel Cabrera, a single from Prince Fielder. Six straight hits. Four runs. It was enough to force Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire to walk to the mound and pull starter Carl Pavano.
“Hopefully we’re relaxing a little bit,” said manager Jim Leyland, “doing what we can do pretty good. Once again I’m not going to get carried away with two games, but at least it’s a pretty good sign.”
It was a good sign, too, that Scherzer settled down after early mistakes to Denard Span and Justin Morneau and retired 13 batters in a row. Scherzer showed control of his pitches for the second straight start. He used his fastball, slider and change-up.
Morneau golfed a low change-up into the seats in the second inning and Span smacked a solo shot off a fastball left over the middle in the sixth inning. Other than those two mistakes, Scherzer was near dominant, striking out nine — giving him 24 in his last two starts — and walking none before rain suspended play in the sixth.
“I’m happy about that more than anything,” Scherzer said, but “I know I can be better.”
Hard to imagine Octavio Dotel could be much better.
“Hero of the game,” said Leyland.
Dotel entered the sixth after play resumed — the delay was 42 minutes — with runners on first and third and one out. He struck out Josh Willingham and got Morneau to pop-up to Cabrera just behind the third-base bag in foul territory. He followed that escape with a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out the side.
When asked how he keeps throwing 94 m.p.h. at his age, he said, “Yeah, I’m 38, but I feel 15.”
He also said he couldn’t thrive without the adrenaline he feels when he enters the game late in a dicey spot.
“I love it. I love it,” he said of the pressure, “that’s what I’m here for. Sometimes we don’t (succeed) — or I don’t — but I have to have that feeling.”
Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or email@example.com.