DETROIT -- Nick Castellanos has 21 hits in two-strike counts this season, 10 after falling into an 0-2 hole. Nearly all of them were hit harder than the blooper he delivered off Twins reliever Michael Tonkin in the seventh inning on Tuesday night.
Few, however, were bigger in terms of momentum than that loft he put into short right field. It was the softest-hit ball of the seven-run, eight-hit rally that lifted the Tigers to a 7-2 win at Comerica Park, but it was the hit that continued what they started against Phil Hughes that inning with Miguel Cabrera's triple and Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly.
"I was just pumped to get on base and keep the line moving," Castellanos said.
• Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Tigers and other #ASGWorthy players
Considering what had happened for six innings, the Tigers also had to feel like they were due.
Victor Martinez lined out hard to right field in the first inning, denied a two-out double with J.D. Martinez on first, before his sac fly finally opened Detroit's scoring in the seventh. By the time he lined out hard to third to end the seventh as the 11th batter of the inning, Detroit had its second big inning in as many nights.
The Tigers scored eight runs in the first inning of the opener on Monday night, then two over the next 13 innings of the series. Just when they appeared to be on the short end of the unlikely pitching duel between Hughes and Mike Pelfrey, they put up their seven-run seventh.
Cabrera's leadoff triple off Hughes was his first in 365 days; he has been good for one per season since 2013. He had little trouble coming home on Martinez's fly ball, hit well enough to convince Twins manager Paul Molitor that was enough for Hughes at 75 pitches.
Castellanos shrugged off a slider and two fastballs from Tonkin before flicking his single to right. That brought up Justin Upton, who entered Tuesday in a 5-for-41, 22-strikeout slump over his previous 11 games. He was denied an extra-base hit on a leaping grab from Danny Santana in center field in the fifth, but Upton felt confidence building in solid contact.
"Honestly, for a minute there, it was getting rough," Upton said. "But at the end of the day, I know what I'm capable of doing. I just have to stay positive."
Tonkin attacked Upton with all fastballs, falling behind before getting one over the plate. With a 2-1 count, Tonkin went at him again, only for Upton to line a ball to the depths of left-center field. Only a hop over the fence prevented him from driving in Castellanos with the tying run, but Cameron Maybin -- swinging a hot bat since his return from the disabled list on Monday -- took care of that two pitches later.
Tonkin got a respite with a strikeout of James McCann, but Jose Iglesias greeted Trevor May with a go-ahead two-run single to left. Kinsler, who barely missed a home run in the third inning, cleared the fence two pitches later, followed by J.D. Martinez on May's next offering, to put the game away.
"That inning was the whole game," Castellanos said.