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DETROIT (AP) – Brandon Inge might be struggling through the worst season of his 11-year career, but he does have a flair for the dramatic.
Saturday, Inge hit his second game-ending homer of the season, giving the Detroit Tigers a 3-2 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday night. His only other homer this season came in his first at-bat with the Tigers after an month-long exile to Triple-A Toledo.
“I love situations like that, where you know that if you get the right result, it is going to be spectacular, especially with these fans in Detroit,” Inge said.
“But trust me, if I could do that on command, I wouldn’t be hitting .194.”
With two out in the bottom of the ninth, Inge hit a 2-1 pitch into the left-field stands off Glen Perkins (4-4) to give Detroit its eighth straight victory. He also hit a game-ending homer on April 13 against Texas’ Darren Oliver.
“I was just looking for something up in the zone that I could drive,” he said. “Ever since I’ve gotten back from Toledo, my swing might look a little weird, but I’m just trying to hit everything hard. As soon as I got that one, I knew it was gone. That’s a great feeling.”
Perkins thought his pitch selection was his biggest mistake.
“I should have thrown him another slider,” he said. “Drew (Butera) called for a fastball, but I should have shaken him off. The pitch I threw him was the only one he could have hit out.”
Al Alburquerque (6-1) picked up the victory with a perfect ninth inning, but sustained an injury to his upper right leg.
“He said it was nothing, but I told him that this isn’t the time of year to be a hero,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “He looked okay, so we left him in, but I’m not sure what the injury is — he’s being looked at right now.”
The win lowered Detroit’s magic number for clinching the AL Central to nine over Chicago and eight over Cleveland.
“Everyone here that was here in 2009 — and that’s most of us — learned our lesson that year,” Inge said. “If we could have found a way to win one more game in that season, we would have never had to play Game 163 in Minnesota. This year, we want to take care of business as quickly as possible.”
Neither starting pitcher was involved in the decision. Detroit’s Max Scherzer allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings, while Anthony Swarzak gave up a pair of runs on four hits in six innings.
“That was a battle, because I didn’t have any command on my fastball,” Scherzer said. “They got a couple off me, but I made a few big pitches and I got some big help from my defense.”
The Tigers took a third-inning lead on Wilson Betemit’s seventh homer, but the Twins tied it 1-1 in the fourth on Joe Mauer’s third home run of the season.
Detroit went back in front in the fourth when Andy Dirks led off with a double, took third on Miguel Cabrera’s one-out groundout and scored on Victor Martinez’s RBI single.
Scherzer held the one-run lead until the sixth, when Trevor Plouffe drew a walk, moved to third on Mauer’s base hit. Austin Jackson then made a spectacular leaping catch of Danny Valencia’s drive to deep center, but Plouffe easily scored from third on the play.
“It was a well-pitched game on both sides,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We just didn’t execute a few times when we needed it.”
NOTES: The game, which drew 38,567 fans, was Star Wars Night at Comerica Park. Before the game, with numerous costumed characters on the field, Plouffe came out of the Minnesota dugout and rubbed his bat on Darth Vader’s helmet. The apparent attempt at good luck didn’t work though, as Plouffe struck out in his first two at-bats. … The teams complete the series on Sunday afternoon with Doug Fister (7-13) pitching for the Tigers against Minnesota’s Scott Diamond (1-3). … Inge had only entered the game in the eighth inning as a defensive replacement for Betemit.
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