DETROIT (AP) — Starter Nick Blackburn was already done for the night, and with the score tied at 6 in the third inning, the Minnesota Twins needed to figure out a way through the rest of the game.
Reliever Jeff Gray took the mound: groundout, groundout, groundout.
Then Gray came back for the fourth: groundout, flyout, flyout.
Gray and the bullpen kept the Detroit bats under control, and the Twins went on to win 11-7 on Wednesday night. Jamey Carroll hit a two-run double in the sixth to give Minnesota the lead, and the sloppy Tigers couldn’t overcome their four errors.
After a wild beginning to the game, Gray retired the first six hitters he faced on only 14 pitches.
“Huge,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He was getting first-pitch swings, and those were huge, and then a lot of guys came in after that.”
Blackburn was pulled at the end of the second inning, having allowed six runs and six hits. He was bothered by a problem with his left thigh. The Twins also placed catcher Ryan Doumit on the 15-day disabled list after the game because of a strained right calf. They will recall outfielder Ben Revere from Triple-A Rochester for Thursday’s game at Detroit.
Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI double off Gray in the fifth to give the Tigers a 7-6 lead, but Carroll came up with men on first and second an inning later. His double off Duane Below (2-1) scored both runners.
Brian Dozier hit a three-run homer for Minnesota in the second, and Trevor Plouffe’s two-run shot in the ninth made it 11-7.
Minnesota’s Justin Morneau went 1 for 5 with a double in his first game back after being on the disabled list with a sore left wrist.
Alex Burnett (1-0) got the win. He was the second of five Minnesota relievers.
Detroit is 9-16 since a 9-3 start and is now dealing with injuries to closer Jose Valverde (strained lower back) and center fielder Austin Jackson (mild abdominal strain). Both are day to day. Jackson left Wednesday’s game after hitting a flyout in the fourth inning.
“You score seven runs, you have to win the game,” manager Jim Leyland said. “If you don’t, you have problems.”
In a sign of things to come, first baseman Prince Fielder dropped a routine throw with one out in the first. Joe Mauer followed with an RBI double, and shortstop Ramon Santiago’s throw home was wild for another error.
Josh Willingham’s double made it 2-0.
It was 2-1 in the second when second baseman Ryan Raburn’s two-out error kept a Minnesota rally alive. Dozier, the next batter, made it 5-1 with a homer to left.
Detroit came back immediately, scoring five runs in the bottom of the inning. Raburn drew a one-out walk, and the next five hitters — Brennan Boesch, Ramon Santiago, Jackson, Andy Dirks and Cabrera — all hit singles. Fielder’s second sacrifice fly of the game gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead.
Doumit’s RBI single in the third tied the game at 6, and Cabrera — the third baseman — made Detroit’s fourth error of the game later that inning. The Tigers became the first team since the New York Yankees in 2009 to have errors from all four infield spots in a game, according to STATS, LLC.
Gray came on in the third and immediately slowed Detroit’s offense.
“These guys are really aggressive. When they see a fastball, they’re swinging for sure,” Gray said. “Making sure that you keep them off balance, and putting your fastball where you want it, is a big deal with these guys.”
Detroit starter Rick Porcello allowed six runs — two earned — and six hits in four innings.
Down 9-7 in the seventh, the Tigers put men on second and third with one out. Alex Avila and Raburn struck out to end the threat.
NOTES: Minnesota OF Denard Span (right hamstring) was initially in the starting lineup but was scratched about an hour before the game. … The Twins beat the Tigers for the fifth time in their last 23 meetings. … Detroit optioned INF Danny Worth to Triple-A Toledo and are expected to recall RHP Brayan Villarreal. … Detroit’s Doug Fister (0-1) faces Minnesota’s P.J. Walters (0-1) on Thursday.
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