DETROIT -- In a span of four pitches, the Twins' bullpen turned a tie game into a five-run deficit as the Tigers scored seven in the seventh inning en route to a 7-2 win on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Starter Phil Hughes exited with a 2-1 lead after 6 1/3 innings and just 75 pitches due to shoulder fatigue, but a collapse by the bullpen dropped Minnesota to 10-28 on the season.
"It's just not getting the ball where you want to get the ball, and these guys do damage in a hurry," manager Paul Molitor said.
After Hughes gave up a triple to Miguel Cabrera and a sacrifice fly to Victor Martinez to open the seventh, his night was done. Right-hander Michael Tonkin took over and put Nick Castellanos in an 0-2 hole, but it was worked to a full count, and Castellanos singled on an inside fastball. Justin Upton hit a ground-rule double in the next at-bat, and Cameron Maybin singled to tie it at 2.
"It's frustrating," Tonkin said. "We know what we can do. We're not doing it. These past couple games, we have these flashes of doing what we can do, then flashes on not playing great. It's upsetting."
Tonkin struck out James McCann for the second out and was replaced by right-hander Trevor May. Tonkin had given up four earned runs over his previous 18 2/3 innings, but he yielded three earned runs in one-third of an inning on Tuesday.
May's first pitch was a fastball down the middle to Jose Iglesias, who singled in the go-ahead runs. May's third pitch was a hanging curveball that Ian Kinsler drilled into the left-field seats to score two more. The next pitch was another fastball down the middle and hit into the right-field seats by J.D. Martinez, and the Twins were down 7-2 within four pitches. May didn't record an out among the four batters he faced.
"I'm out there trying to do everything I can to get a guy out, and nothing happened," May said. "Coming out of a game like that, as you can tell, I'm still pretty livid. It's happened to us, this whole team. A guy throws his heart out like Phil. He did what he needed to, and we need to finish the game and bring a 'W' home. The last couple opportunities, I haven't gotten the job done. That's definitely disappointing."
May had only surrendered two home runs and eight earned runs in 19 prior appearances. He gave up two homers and three earned runs without recording an out on Tuesday. Molitor believes some of the bullpen is taxed, noting it was May's 20th appearance in 38 games, but May said it's only on himself.
"Just not executing," he said. "It's our job to go out and pitch when they need us. As far as that goes, it's trying to be ready every time the phone rings. It's only May and you can say all this stuff, but at the end of the day, you go out and I have a game plan in my mind. I have to execute it and get the job done. Two of the last three times, it's not happened."