An Omar Infante walk and Austin Jackson double gave the Detroit Tigers a glorious chance to erase a 3-2 deficit in Minnesota on Thursday afternoon — two in scoring position, nobody out, and Torii Hunter-Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder coming up.
But Hunter struck out and, after an intentional walk to Cabrera, so did Fielder. Victor Martinez then meekly ended the threat with a pop out, allowing the Twins to escape with that one-run lead intact.
Minnesota later piled on, dropping a five-spot against reliever Brayan Villarreal in the eighth inning to roll to an 8-2 win and season-opening series victory. Rick Porcello took the loss for Detroit after allowing three runs (and two long home runs) in 5.1 innings.
Both of Detroit’s runs were of the unearned variety. Hunter brought home Jackson on an RBI groundout in the first, after Jackson advanced to third on a throwing error by Joe Mauer; and Cabrera singled in Hunter in the third, after a two-base error by Pedro Florimon put Hunter in scoring position.
Tigers’ MVP: Austin Jackson. After his defensive miscue helped Minnesota win on Wednesday, Jackson bounced back by reaching base three times Thursday (two hits, one walk). His double in the seventh should have set the table for a key rally, but the rest of the lineup let him down.
Tigers’ Goat: Villarreal. A miserable two-thirds of an inning for the erratic fireballer — four hits, two walks and five runs. That outing brought Detroit’s bullpen up to 10 runs allowed in 10 innings of work during the season’s first three games.
The starting pitching deserves some blame, too. Porcello’s short outing marked the third straight day in which a Tigers starter failed to get through the sixth.
Where Detroit Stands: 1-2, currently 1.5 back of the Indians, though that gap could drop to one (or rise to two), pending Cleveland’s game with Toronto on Thursday night.
What’s Next: The home opener on Friday afternoon, with Doug Fister taking on Ivan Nova and the Yankees. Detroit will be hoping Comerica Park’s confines wake up the bats — Friday’s game is the first of six straight at home.