Left-hander Daniel Norris made his much anticipated return from the disabled list on Wednesday, but he was long gone by the time Detroit Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez provided some insurance runs in the top of the 12th to help take the rubber match of the series versus the Minnesota Twins, 7-4.
The Tigers broke the 4-4 tie when second baseman Ian Kinsler drove home shortstop Andre Romine from second base. In the next at-bat, Martinez hit his 37th bomb of the season to left field.
The loss was costly for the Minnesota Twins, who remained 1.5 games back of the Houston Astros for the second Wild Card spot. Houston lost Wednesday, 14-3, so Minnesota would have been just 1/2 game behind if they beat the Tigers.
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They certainly had their chances as the Twins held a one-run lead in the ninth, but Kevin Jepsen couldn’t close the door. The Tigers rallied with designated hitter Victor Martinez beginning that frame with a single. Left fielder Tyler Collins singled in the next at-bat, and pinch runner Steven Moya advanced to third. Collins also took an extra base when the Twins failed to cut off the throw from the outfield, so Collins advanced to second safely.
Third baseman Jefry Marte drove in both runs with a single in the next at-bat.
But as usual, the Tigers had their own bullpen issues as closer Bruce Rondon couldn’t hold the one-run lead either. He walked Miguel Sano to start off the inning, and pinch runner Eduardo Nunez advanced to second on a passed ball. The Tigers lead then disappeared as third baseman Trevor Plouffe doubled to score Nunez.
After a sacrifice bunt that advanced the Twins base runner to third, the Tigers were forced to play the infield in with one out. Luckily, Rondon induced a ground ball, and shortstop Andrew Romine threw pinch runner Shane Robinson out at the plate.
The Twins had the winning run in scoring position again in the 10th but could not push him across the plate. Lefty Ian Krol received the win and pitched three scoreless innings, allowing no hits and one walk.
Norris pitched nearly as well, going 3 2/3 innings and yielding one run in his return. The Tigers didn’t want him to throw more than 50 pitches, so manager Brad Ausmus lifted him with one out to go in the fourth. Norris only allowed one hit, which was a homer to left fielder Eddie Rosario. Norris also struck out four and walked none.
The Detroit Tigers have an off day on Thursday and travel home to face the Kansas City Royals this weekend.