Hunter's two-run double keys Tigers' rally
Detroit scores four in seventh; Sanchez allows one run in 6 2/3 innings
DETROIT -- Hard to believe there was actually a pitching duel in the Tigers' 7-1 win over the Twins on Wednesday night at Comerica Park. For six innings, though, it was a scoreless battle.
It was close enough that No. 9 hitter Bryan Holaday laid down a sacrifice bunt in the fifth inning to move Jose Iglesias into scoring position.
It was close enough that on a night when the Tigers gave away posters celebrating Anibal Sanchez's franchise record 17-strikeout game from April, the strike he couldn't get on a seventh-inning full count to Pedro Florimon looked like the pitch that would doom him.
And after Brian Dozier's subsequent two-out RBI single opened the scoring, Sanchez was shaking his head on his way out.
"I just said, 'Good game,'" Sanchez said.
It was close enough in the bottom of the seventh that a 2-2 pitch from Kevin Correia to Torii Hunter -- a cutter in the dirt that Hunter barely fouled off -- was arguably the pitch that turned it in Detroit's favor. It could have easily been the strikeout pitch that got Correia into the eighth inning with a 1-0 lead.
"It was a cutter, splitty, something," Hunter said. "I was just trying to foul it off, because I was already committed. That's all you do, is foul it off and wait for that pitch."
The next pitch was the fastball he wanted, and Hunter lined it to right-center for a two-out, two-run double. Holaday, the sacrifice bunter from earlier whose two-out single started the rally, scored easily. And once right fielder Chris Herrmann couldn't cut off Hunter's ball in the gap, Austin Jackson scored from first without a throw to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
"I never had a chance to face him in his prime," Correia said, "And I'm glad, because it doesn't seem like he's lost much. He's a tough out."
Hunter busted out laughing when told of Correia's reaction.
"Really? Man, that's tough," Hunter said. "I guess I have to take that as a compliment. Go tell him that he's a great pitcher and not to worry, I'm a better hitter now than in my prime."
By the time the Twins recorded another out, that great pitchers' duel was unrecognizable.
Hunter showed himself to be a tough baserunner as well, scoring from second when Caleb Thielbar's strikeout pitch to Prince Fielder got away from catcher Ryan Doumit. An accurate throw likely would have retired Fielder at first base, but Doumit's toss pulled Chris Colabello off the bag.
Thielbar watched it all unfold, but he did not cover home plate, leaving it open for Hunter to round third and score without a throw.
"I've watched that guy since I was young," Thielbar said. "He used to do that stuff all the time. He's a smart baserunner and he took advantage of it."
Said Hunter: "I saw it right away."
The four-run, two-out rally, capped by Victor Martinez's RBI double, came with merely an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera, whose late-inning dramatics have been a regular saga lately.
Instead, Cabrera got his chance in the eighth, again with a two-out rally. This time, it was an error that extended the inning and loaded the bases, and it came from Dozier, whose single had put Minnesota ahead just an inning earlier.
"You miss your plays and there's another big inning for them," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It pretty much took us out of it."
Cabrera pulled a ball past third baseman Trevor Plouffe down the left-field line, clearing the bases. He bumped his league-leading RBI total to 123, seven ahead of Baltimore's Chris Davis, who padded his home-run lead with his 46th homer earlier in the evening.
"He's just one of those guys that seems to be set for the dramatic on a lot of occasions," manager Jim Leyland said. "You're not going to do it every single time."
All seven runs scored with two outs, padding Detroit's league-leading two-out RBI total to 244, 10 more than Texas. The Tigers remain last in the AL in runs scored in the seventh inning or later, but they moved ahead of Miami and Washington out of the Major League cellar.
They came too late for Sanchez, who took a no-decision after 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball on six hits with two walks and eight strikeouts.
Drew Smyly (5-0) retired Herrmann to end the top of the seventh. Detroit's rally in the bottom of the inning allowed Smyly to join Oakland's Jerry Blevins and Atlanta's Luis Avilan as baseball's only 5-0 relievers this year.
Jose Veras finished the eighth inning when it was still a 4-1 game, then stayed on for the ninth after Detroit pulled away. His first save as a Tiger was his 20th on the season, and it came in a six-run game.
Hard as it might be to believe, it was that close.
"I was concerned, I'll tell you that," Leyland said.