Kinsler's four RBIs help Tigers trip Nolasco, Twins
DETROIT -- If the 39-degree temperature at first pitch and damp, blustery conditions on Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park weren't inhospitable enough for the Twins, the Tigers' bats were. What began as a pitching duel between former Marlins teammates Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco turned one-sided with nine Tigers runs from the third through fifth innings en route to an 11-0 Detroit win.
It was the second straight shutout from the Tigers' pitching staff, the first American League team to pitch back-to-back shutouts to begin a season since the 1977 Angels, and the 14th team to do so in the last 100 years. The Nationals were the last Major League team in 2014. More >
Nolasco retired six of the first seven he faced, then just three of the next 12. The bottom of the order proved to be his undoing, setting the tone for the Tigers offense on the day. Alex Avila drew leadoff walks in the third and fourth innings, then a one-out walk in the fifth. Jose Iglesias had a career-high 4-for-4 performance. The two combined for seven runs. Add in James McCann's pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth, and the bottom two hitters in the order reached base safely 10 times.
The top of the Tigers' order was the beneficiary. Ian Kinsler drove in two with a two-run single in the third inning, then Anthony Gose chased Nolasco with a two-run triple in the fourth.
Sanchez retired his first six batters before giving up an Oswaldo Arcia single leading off the third. The difference was that nothing blossomed from there. It was the same for Joe Mauer's one-out single in the fourth inning. Even Jordan Schafer's leadoff double in the sixth went unrewarded once Sanchez retired the top of the Twins' lineup in order
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Sanchez shines in cold: With Justin Verlander on the disabled list, and Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello elsewhere, the Tigers needed a front-line performance from Sanchez, now the No. 2 starter behind David Price. Sanchez, who doesn't like pitching in cold weather, delivered with 6 2/3 scoreless innings on three hits with two walks and six strikeouts. Three of his strikeouts came with runners on base, including a swing-and-miss from Danny Santana following Schafer's leadoff double in the sixth. More >
"Every inning was quick for me," Sanchez said. "I threw a lot of strikes. I just tried to put the ball in play just to get out of the innings quickly."
Nolasco struggles in season debut: After his down year in 2014 that saw him post a 5.38 ERA in 27 starts, Nolasco wasn't any better in his '15 debut. The right-hander lasted just three-plus innings, giving up six runs on six hits and four walks. It marked the second-shortest start for Nolasco since he joined the team last year. More >
"The first couple innings he came out and did a good job, but lost his command from that point forward," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "I'm not sure if the cool weather or slick baseballs affected him as the game went on, but obviously, he lost some of the things he had the first couple innings."
In the zone: Iglesias went 7-for-52 in Spring Training as he tried to get his timing back at the plate from a lost 2014 season. After two regular-season games, he's a hit away from matching that total. His damage on Wednesday included a double to the left-field fence, an infield single to third and a ground ball past a diving Mauer at first base.
"He's the type of guy that with his legs, just putting the ball in play often becomes a hit," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That helped him today."
Scoreless streak continues: Minnesota's previous record for scoreless innings to open a season was 11 in 1988, but the Twins cruised right past that by getting shut out for the second straight game to begin 2015. Dating to the last game of the season in '14, the Twins have gone 28 innings without scoring a run. They've also yet to have a runner reach third base this season. More >
"Sanchez is a good pitcher, but I thought we had some good pitches to take whacks at early, but we just couldn't square them up," Molitor said. "Once he got a lead, kind of like [David] Price, he just kind of settled in and made it look easy from there."
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Avila's three-walk game is the fourth of his career, but his first since 2012. He actually has twice as many three-walk games as he does four-hit games.
The Twins became the first American League team to be shut out in back-to-back games to open the season since the 1977 Seattle Mariners. The Major League record for consecutive innings without scoring a run to open a season is 26 by the 1943 St. Louis Cardinals.
The Twins intentionally walked Victor Martinez twice before the game got out of hand, opting to take their chances with J.D. Martinez behind him and runners on base. Both times, they escaped, though J.D. Martinez just missed a pitch on a third-inning flyout to left and hit a well-struck line drive to third base an inning later. Ausmus is hitting J.D. Martinez ahead of Yoenis Cespedes for his ability to do damage with his power.
Twins: Right-hander Kyle Gibson is set to make his season debut vs. the Tigers on Thursday at Comerica Park at 12:08 p.m. CT. Gibson faced Detroit five times last year, going 2-3 with a 6.00 ERA. He's looking to improve his consistency this year, as he finished with a 4.47 ERA, but had a 1.42 ERA in his 13 wins and an 11.04 ERA in his 12 losses.
Tigers: Shane Greene will make his Tigers debut in the series finale against the Twins on Thursday at 1:08 p.m. ET. It'll be the first meeting with Minnesota for Greene, who made 14 starts for the Yankees last summer before coming to Detroit in a December trade for Robbie Ray. Watch the game live on MLB.TV.