MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — EEduardo Escobar’s two-run double with one out in the ninth inning lifted the Minnesota Twins to a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Wednesday.
After Joaquin Benoit issued a leadoff walk to Trevor Plouffe, reliever Phil Coke took over. Coke got the first out, but Brian Dozier’s single advanced pinch-runner Jamey Carroll to third. Then Escobar drove the first pitch Coke to the deepest part of the park in front of the bullpens in left-center field.
The ball bounced between outfielders Andy Dirks and Austin Jackson and both runners scored easily. The rebuilding Twins enjoyed their first on-field celebration of the season and spoiled another strong performance by a Tigers starter.
The AL Central champion Tigers began the season without a set closer after Jose Valverde wasn’t brought back.
Anibal Sanchez threw five scoreless innings, just like Justin Verlander did in the opener. But after a two-up, two-down save on Monday, Coke (0-1) blew his chance in this one.
Darin Downs also allowed a run in the sixth on pinch-hitter Wilkin Ramirez’s double, after Tigers relievers gave up runs in shaky sixth and seventh innings in the opener.
When Valverde, a three-time All-Star who struggled in the playoffs was let go, and hard-throwing prospect Bruce Rondon was sent to Triple-A, the bullpen became the biggest concern of the spring for the Tigers in their attempt to return to the World Series — and win it this time.
Hitting probably won’t be a problem for the Tigers.
Miguel Cabrera, the reigning American League MVP and Triple Crown winner, has driven in three runs in two games. He hit a pair of two-out RBI singles, one in the third and one in the fifth.
Twins starter Kevin Correia, who otherwise had a fine AL debut, got the first two outs in each of those innings. Torii Hunter, the former Twins star, has adjusted well to the No. 2 spot in the batting order with his new team. He hit opposite-field singles right before Cabrera’s run-scoring hits in both of those situations.
Correia, signed as a free agent after spending the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, finished seven innings, with seven hits, two runs and one walk allowed while striking out two.
Jared Burton pitched a perfect eighth and Glen Perkins (1-0) needed only 10 pitches in a perfect ninth inning for the victory.
The gametime temperature was 46 degrees, up 11 from the opener, but the afternoon winds were still whipping across the diamond. The announced attendance was 22,963, the smallest crowd in terms of tickets sold since Target Field opened in 2010.
Sanchez surrendered two hits and three walks while striking out five, a line almost identical to Verlander’s on opening day.
The Twins had only three hits until the final inning. They scored in the seventh when Plouffe drew a leadoff walk against Downs, stole second and came home when Ramirez, a former Tigers prospect who played 15 games for Detroit in 2009, sent a ground ball down the line that eluded Prince Fielder’s reach for a double.
NOTES: The previous attendance low at Target Field was last Sept. 10, a crowd of 27,526 for a game against Cleveland.
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