The Detroit Tigers ' starting pitchers have yet to allow a run, though manager Jim Leyland would probably like to see his next one go a little deeper.
Detroit starters Justin Verlander and Anibal Sanchez each threw five scoreless innings in the first two games of this series, giving up a combined five hits and striking out 12. Leyland wanted to limit their pitch counts to begin the season and each had surpassed 90 through five, causing him to turn to a relief corps widely considered to be the Tigers' biggest weakness.
That certainly seemed to be the case Wednesday. With Detroit leading 2-0, Darin Downs allowed a run in the seventh. Joaquin Benoit worked a scoreless eighth but walked the leadoff hitter in the ninth, then Phil Coke gave up a single and a two-run double to Eduardo Escobar as the Twins won 3-2.
"He just made a couple bad pitches at the end," Leyland said of Coke, who saved Monday's 4-2 win in Minnesota. "He got them up, out over the plate, which is the strength of those guys. That's where he got them, and they hit them."
Before the season, the Tigers (1-1) didn't re-sign three-time All-Star closer Jose Valverde , who struggled in the playoffs, and supposed heir apparent Bruce Rondon was sent to Triple-A for more seasoning. That left the team with a closer by committee. Drew Smyly may be part of that group but allowed both runs in the opener.
Porcello didn't give up many runs in March, winning all four of his spring starts last month while posting a 2.25 ERA - a major difference from his poor finish to 2012. He had a 1-6 record over his final nine outings, failing to get beyond the sixth inning in the last six, and didn't make the playoff rotation.
"I think he's got some things figured out," Leyland told the team's official website. "... He looked very, very good this spring - really good."
Porcello (10-12, 4.59 ERA) hasn't had much success in April, going 5-9 with a 6.13 ERA - his highest in any month. The right-hander, though, is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his last four starts at Target Field.
Former Twin Torii Hunter is enjoying his latest return to Minnesota, getting four hits in this series. Reigning AL MVP and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera , meanwhile, has driven in a combined three runs.
Cabrera had a pair of two-out RBI singles Wednesday and is batting .377 with 27 RBIs in his last 17 games against the Twins (1-1).
Elbow problems limited the right-hander to three starts for the New York Mets in 2012, and the Twins signed him to a one-year deal in December.
"It's going to be a big moment for him. A lot of hard work goes into that. He had to really push it to the limit," manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins' website. "But there's always fear involved when you do something like that to your arm. But you have to push through that fear."
Pelfrey, a 15-game winner in 2010 for the Mets, lost his only start against Detroit on June 30, 2011, allowing five runs, eight hits and five walks over 4 2-3 innings.
|March 22, 2013||Avisail Garcia||15-Day DL||Bruised right heel|
|March 24, 2013||Tim Wood||15-Day DL||Right rotator cuff strain|
|March 22, 2013||Scott Diamond||15-Day DL||Recovery from left elbow surgery|
|March 22, 2013||Anthony Swarzak||15-Day DL||Fractured ribs|
|February 06, 2013||Anthony Swarzak||Day-to-Day||Fractured ribs|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Mike Pelfrey looked around as he stepped on the mound to appreciate the moment. Less than a year after Tommy John surgery, he was back in a major league game.
Pelfrey pitched into the sixth inning in his Minnesota debut, Josh Willingham and Trevor Plouffe hit home runs and the Twins took the season-opening series from the Detroit Tigers with an 8-2 victory Thursday.
"If I was a crier, I probably would've cried. But I don't do that too much. I was pretty proud, walking out there," Pelfrey said. "This is my reward for busting my butt."
Pelfrey (1-0) did not allow an earned run. The former New York Mets first-round draft pick was given a 3-2 lead when Willingham and Plouffe went deep against Tigers starter Rick Porcello (0-1), and five relievers kept it that way for four innings.
The Twins broke the game open with a five-run eighth against Brayan Villarreal , when Pedro Florimon hit a two-run double and Aaron Hicks added a two-run single for his first major league hit. Tigers relievers gave up 10 runs over 10 innings in these three games.
Miguel Cabrera got another RBI, his fourth of the year, but the Tigers had another quiet afternoon at the plate.
The Tigers had runners at second and third with none out in the seventh after Austin Jackson doubled, Detroit's first extra-base hit in 21 innings since Torii Hunter 's double in the third inning of Monday's opener. Cabrera was walked intentionally with one out to load the bases. But Prince Fielder struck out on a checked swing against Tyler Robertson and Victor Martinez popped out against Casey Fien to end the threat.
"I'll take my chances with that all year long," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
Starting pitching is supposed to be Minnesota's biggest weakness, the primary reason why the Twins lost 195 games the last two years. But Vance Worley , Kevin Correia and Pelfrey allowed five earned runs in 18 1-3 innings in this series, a 2.45 ERA.
"I know the expectations outside the clubhouse aren't the greatest, but everybody in here, we believe in each other and know what we're capable of," Pelfrey said.
The 6-foot-7 Pelfrey was a fixture in the Mets' rotation for four-plus seasons until the elbow problem popped up. He made three starts last year before undergoing the ligament replacement procedure. So Gardenhire was smiling afterward when describing how he tried to take Pelfrey out after five innings only to be rebuffed.
"I said, `I'm not done. I've been a horse my whole life. I want to get back to that. I'm going back out,"' Pelfrey said. "He said, `OK, I trust you. Go back out.' So I appreciated the opportunity."
Dr. James Andrews performed the operation last May 1 in Gulf Breeze, Fla., making Pelfrey's comeback a little more than 11 months. The right-hander gave up two unearned runs, five hits and two walks in 5 1-3 innings, with one strikeout. He trailed 2-0 before the Twins found their power stroke, but even those runs weren't his fault. Throwing errors by catcher Joe Mauer and the shortstop Florimon led to runs in the first and the third.
"It's nice knowing that we're going to have some guys who can get us late in games," Robertson said.
Porcello didn't pitch badly, yielding six hits and two walks in 5 1-3 innings while striking out two. But he gave up the lead in the third when Mauer's two-out single was followed by Willingham's tying two-run shot into the seats in left-center.
In the fourth, Plouffe hit one even higher and further that clanked off the facade of the second deck above the same spot in the ballpark. Willingham and Plouffe were the top two power hitters for the Twins last year, with 35 and 24 home runs respectively.
"They did all the hitting today. I know it's early and we don't want to keep saying that, but we'll turn it around," Hunter said.
NOTES: Pelfrey wore No. 34 with the Mets, but that's retired for Kirby Puckett . He said when he arrived with the Mets he asked for No. 41, which is out of commission in Tom Seaver 's honor. "So I'm 0 for 2," said Pelfrey, who is wearing No. 37. ... The Twins have a winning record for the first time since the end of the 2010 season. "You're really going to do that?" manager Ron Gardenhire said after the feat was mentioned to him by a reporter. "We've played three games." ... The Tigers have their home opener on Friday afternoon against the New York Yankees , with RH Doug Fister scheduled to pitch against RH Ivan Nova . ... The Twins are the opponent for Baltimore's home opener on Friday, with RH Liam Hendriks taking the mound against Orioles RH Jake Arrieta .