Hicks the hero as Twins walk off over Tigers
MINNEAPOLIS -- It was the type of game the Twins have lost in heartbreaking fashion too many times this season. But on Tuesday night it was they who flipped the script on the Tigers.
Closer Glen Perkins blew a save chance in the top of the ninth by giving up a go-ahead three-run homer to J.D. Martinez with two outs, but the Twins rallied against Tigers closer Joe Nathan for two runs in the bottom of the ninth to hand the division-leading Tigers a 4-3 loss at Target Field.
"It was so emotional," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "These guys are fighting to win a pennant. We're fighting to win a ballgame. A big three-run homer from them, but our guys keep coming back. It's just an emotional time, and there was a lot of emotion in the dugout. I'm proud of these guys."
With the Twins down by a run, Trevor Plouffe worked a one-out walk before being removed for pinch-runner Doug Bernier. Kurt Suzuki came through with a game-tying RBI double past a diving Ezequiel Carrera to score Bernier before also coming out for a pinch-runner, Chris Herrmann.
"Suzuki, what can I say? He placed one right in a spot," Nathan said. "Carrera gave it 110 percent. I love seeing the hustle, love seeing him going all out, trying to make a play in a big situation. Unfortunately, the worst thing happens, and that's a ball getting past him on a dive."
The missed play by Carrera set the stage for Aaron Hicks, who was the hero with a walk-off RBI infield single to shortstop with two outs to help bail out Perkins.
"It was good for us to come back to get the win," Hicks said. "We did what we had to do and scored some runs. It's a big win for us. Any win we get against the Tigers is good. I think it goes toward us doing what we need to do to beat them."
Perkins entered the ninth with a two-run lead but gave up a bloop double to Torii Hunter with one out and a single to Miguel Cabrera before serving up the three-run blast to right field to Martinez with two outs.
Gardenhire is worried about Perkins, who has struggled this month with a 13.50 ERA in six outings while dealing with stiffness in his neck.
"I'm concerned," Gardenhire said. "We'll talk with him tomorrow. There's a lot of frustration tonight, so we'll talk tomorrow, because he's coming off that thing and has had a couple of outings where the velocity is down. We just want him to be honest and not hurt himself."
The blown save spoiled a strong outing by Ricky Nolasco, who has been pitching better of late, and who scattered just five hits and a walk with five strikeouts in one of his best outings of the season. He has a 3.09 ERA over his last five outings but still hasn't picked up a win since July 1.
"This was one of his best," Suzuki said. "The big thing for me was the strike percentage. If you look at the strike percentage, if it's up over 70 percent, that's a good thing."
Nolasco was backed offensively by Kennys Vargas, who had a big night against Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello. Vargas went 3-for-4 with a single, a triple and a homer, in that order, before grounding out against Nathan to open the ninth.
"I was just trying to get on base and score a run," Vargas said about going for the cycle in his last at-bat. "I wasn't thinking about the double or nothing."
Vargas reached on an infield single in the second inning before connecting on his first career triple to lead off the fourth. He hit a ball to deep left-center that caromed hard off the wall, allowing him to reach third. He scored on a two-out single by Suzuki to give the Twins the lead.
Vargas gave the Twins an insurance run with a solo blast off Porcello with one out in the sixth. It was his eighth homer of the season, and it came on a 3-2 changeup.
"He's a big boy," said Porcello, who gave up just two runs over eight innings but was saddled with a no-decision. "He's got some juice. Didn't make great pitches against him, but at the same time, he squared them up, so he had a nice night."