Found May 27, 2012 on
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MINNEAPOLIS Through their first several starts, Twins starting pitchers P.J. Walters and Scott Diamond seemed to have success nearly every time out after their promotions from Triple-A Rochester. But their somewhat surprising starts raised the question of what would happen once they faced a team for the second time.
Walters did that Sunday, facing a Detroit Tigers lineup that tagged him for three solo homers back on May 17. The second time around, Walters held Detroit to just two runs in six innings despite several threats from the Tigers' offense.
While the Twins lost 4-3 after a Tigers rally in the ninth, Walters pitched well enough to win for the fourth time in four starts with Minnesota. He also passed the first test of facing the same opponent twice.
"It's part of it. They're in the division. We're going to face them a lot," Walters said. "I'm going to have to learn them just as much as they're going to have to learn me."
On Sunday, Walters showed that he's already starting to learn how to attack Detroit's lineup. It was Brennan Boesch, Andy Dirks and Prince Fielder that took Walters deep the first time he faced the Tigers. Sunday, he got Boesch to ground into a double play in the first and struck him out in the fifth. Dirks reached on a first-inning single, but fanned against Walters in the third. Fielder still had the upper hand against the Twins' right-hander, as he drew two walks -- one intentional -- and hit a leadoff double in the fourth inning.
"That's a good hitting baseball team over there," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "You have to be very careful. There's certain situations you can't give into them, and he didn't."
Walters didn't allow a home run Sunday, but gave up a pair of runs in the first inning. He walked leadoff hitter Quintin Berry to start the game and then gave up a base hit to Andy Dirks. Miguel Cabrera singled home Berry, and Dirks later scored on a double play by Boesch.
The first inning was far from the last trouble Walters faced Sunday, but it was the last time he'd allow a run. He scattered seven hits and issued five walks, one of which was intentional. In his previous three starts, he walked five batters combined in 21-13 innings.
"I was kind of all over the place and falling behind guys," Walters said. "That leads to hits and walks and everything else. I kind of just built my own trouble and they were able to turn a few double plays and get me out of it."
That was the case again in the fourth inning, as Walters loaded the bases when he hit Jhonny Peralta with one out. But he induced his second double play of the game, this time off the bat of Don Kelly, to avoid yet another jam.
A similar scenario played out in the fifth inning, as the Tigers once again loaded the bases in the fifth. An intentional walk to Fielder filled the bases, but Boesch looked at strike three -- a 91 mph fastball from Walters -- to end yet another threat.
"P.J. had a lot of men out there on the bases but kept battling through, kept making pitches and got us into the game," Gardenhire said.
Walters' sixth and final inning wasn't exactly a clean one, either, but he yet again escaped a jam without allowing a run. He walked Alex Avila to lead off the inning, then gave up a base hit to Peralta. After Kelly popped out on a bunt attempt, Minnesota's defense turned another double play behind Walters as Ryan Raburn grounded to third baseman Trevor Plouffe, who started the inning-ending double play.
"It's not exactly how you draw it up, but the defense made some good plays, turned some double plays and got us out of some jams," Walters said. ". . . I still walked a few guys later in the game and kind of built my own trouble, for the most part. Throw the ball over, make the guys hit it and the defense played well behind me."
The Tigers may not be off to the start that many anticipated, as they're still two games under .500 following Sunday's win. But with a lineup that includes Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Detroit's offense has the potential for a game-changing home run. Case in point: Cabrera's go-ahead home run off closer Matt Capps in the ninth.
Yet in just his fourth game with Minnesota, and already his second against Detroit, Walters was able to keep the Tigers' big bats at bay. Now it's a matter of sustaining that the rest of the season.
"I think they had a better idea of what I was throwing, pitches I had," Walters said. "They weren't really surprised when I threw something else. They'll learn me, I'm sure."
Added Gardenhire: "It was definitely one of those battles for him, that's for sure. He had to really work his way through some things. You do that with that lineup over there. They're pretty good."
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