Twins beat Tigers, 11-5, in Game 1 of doubleheader with seven runs in 12th inning

Phil Miller, Star Tribune on

Published in Baseball

DETROIT — Ryan Jeffers was supposed to be resting up for Saturday's second game. He did so by winning the first.

Jeffers crushed the third pinch-hit home run of his career in the eighth inning to tie Game 1, singled home Carlos Santana with a go-ahead run in the 11th, and finished up in the 12th by bouncing a chopper between third baseman Zach McKinstry's legs to score three more runs in the Twins' seven-run inning. Jeffers' heroics helped earn the Twins an 11-5 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park, just their second win in the past week.

The Tigers' 12th-inning meltdown began with Byron Buxton standing on second base. After a walk to Willi Castro, Christian Vázquez laid down a sacrifice bunt. But when first baseman Spencer Torkelson threw it to third base, Buxton beat the throw, loading the bases. Tigers right-hander Alex Lange walked Austin Martin to force in the go-ahead run, but then struck out Kyle Farmer and Santana.

That brought up Jeffers for the third time in a game he didn't enter until the eighth inning. After fouling off six two-strike pitches, Jeffers hit a high bouncer that McKinstry misjudged, allowing it to roll into left field for an error while all three runners scored. The Tigers finished the inning with McKinstry on the mound, and Matt Wallner took advantage by driving a 61-mph pitch into the right-field stands.

It was a wild finish to a game that Joe Ryan had dominated early. The Twins right-hander struck out a career-high 12 Tigers in the first five innings alone. But he also allowed three runs and the Twins trailed most of the game. At least, until Jeffers entered as a pinch hitter in the eighth, when the catcher took two pitches off the plate, then rifled a fastball from Shelby Miller into the Twins' bullpen.

The seven-run inning was more than the Twins have scored in all but one of their games this year, and helped hide the fact that they went 3 for 17 with runners on second or third base.


Martin doubled home Castro in the third inning, and Santana also drove in a run, despite extending his hitting slump to a career-worst 0 for 24 by going hitless in six at-bats.

Ryan struck out six Tigers the first time through the order, and 10 of the first 11 outs he recorded were whiffs. But he fell behind in the first inning when, with Mark Canha on first base after reaching on Jose Miranda's throwing error, Ryan left a 3-and-2 splitter in the middle of the strike zone. Kerry Carpenter belted it into the seats in right field, his second home run of the season.

Ryan tied his career high by striking out Carson Kelly, leading off the fifth inning, and ended the frame by getting Canha to reach for a low-and-away sweeper, giving him a dozen strikeouts for the first time in his career.

But it was his last K of the day. Torkelson led off the sixth by doubling down the left-field line, and Colt Keith singled him home, temporarily giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead. The inning ended with Ryan at 96 pitches, and Twins manager Rocco Baldelli went to the bullpen for the remainder of the game.

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