DETROIT -- In his first game with the Twins on Saturday night, Christopher Austin's bat was a big difference in Minnesota's 4-3 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.Batting with one on and one out in the fifth inning against Tigers starter Francisco Liriano, Austin caught a 2-1 slider down
DETROIT -- In his first game with the Twins on Saturday night, Christopher Austin's bat was a big difference in Minnesota's 4-3 win over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Batting with one on and one out in the fifth inning against Tigers starter Francisco Liriano, Austin caught a 2-1 slider down the middle of the plate and sent it 405 feet to left field to give the Twins a 3-1 lead. It was also Austin's first hit with the club.
"I just got something out over the plate and put a good swing on it," Austin said.
For most of the night, it looked like Austin's home run was going to be something special to remember, the highlight of the Twins' first win since beating the Indians on Tuesday. Its importance was found in retrospect, though, as the Tigers mounted a two-run rally in the ninth.
Austin was traded from the Yankees to the Twins on July 30 and sent to Triple-A Rochester. He was called up on Friday after the Twins traded Fernando Rodney and sent Adalberto Mejia to the disabled list. Austin was the designated hitter Saturday against the left-handed Liriano, in part because of his higher average against lefties. Saturday's long ball was his first in the Majors since hitting two home runs against the Royals on May 20 as a member of the Yankees.
Manager Paul Molitor called Austin a "modern-day player, with a strikeout, a walk and a homer in his first three at-bats. That's kind of what today's game seems to be about."
Consistent power would be welcomed in the middle of the order for a Twins team that ranks 24th in the Majors with 113 home runs.
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"We'll have to wait and see," Austin said of the pop in his bat. "I'm pretty confident with what I can do up there. Like I said earlier, I have to stay in the zone and swing at strikes and I'll be alright."
The Twins were trailing in the third inning when Eddie Rosario scored on a wild pitch. It was indicative of Liriano's five-inning performance, which included four walks. Rosario provided an insurance run in the sixth inning with a two-out double to right-center field that scored Joe Mauer from first.
In their first save situation post-Rodney, the Twins turned to Trevor Hildenberger, who gave up a two-run home run to Niko Goodrum, cutting Minnesota's lead to 4-3.
"It was a little more up than I wanted it to be," Hildenberger said of the pitch to Goodrum that went over the right-field wall. "I think I have to look at the film and see if I'm tipping something on offspeed pitches. Guys are getting really comfortable swings on my offspeed pitches, so I'll have to take a look at it."
That was followed by a single, which brought the winning run to the plate with no one out. Hildenberger then settled in and got three straight outs for his first save since Aug. 13, 2017, also against the Tigers.
"Hildy showed a little something," Molitor said. "You give up a two-run homer and another single, then he made some pitches. We're gonna have to find a way to close games out."
Kyle Gibson threw seven innings for his longest outing since July 26 against the Red Sox. It was the fifth time this season Gibson has thrown at least seven innings while allowing fewer than two runs.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
With Tigers reliever Zach McAllister pitching in the sixth inning, Mauer reached on an infield single with two outs to keep the inning alive. The ball bounced of McAllister and to Goodrum behind second base. Goodrum couldn't make a clean transfer and didn't have a play at first.
That allowed for Rosario to hit the double that gave the Twins a three-run cushion.
HE SAID IT
"We didn't do too much for a lot of those middle innings because Gibby threw the ball really well. I had him for a while over there on the other team, and he's found out what pitching's all about now. He's throwing strikes and he has good stuff." -- Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, on Gibson
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Tigers tried to pull off a double steal in the fourth inning with Goodrum taking third and Jim Adduci taking second. Catcher Bobby Wilson fired to Miguel Sano at third, and Goodrum was initially called safe. After a 59-second review, the call was overturned for the second out of the inning. It was the sixth runner Wilson has thrown out this season.
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Tigers left fielder Victor Reyes found himself on the other side of the wall during the first at-bat of the game. Chasing down a fly ball during Mauer's leadoff at-bat, Reyes flipped over the wall and got caught in the protective netting but suffered no ill effects. He finished the game and went 1-for-4.
The Twins conclude their weekend series against the Tigers with a 12:10 p.m. CT first pitch in Detroit on Sunday. Starting and making his Major League debut for the Twins will be right-hander Kohl Stewart, who was drafted by the Twins with the fourth overall pick in the 2013 Draft. Throwing for the Tigers will be left-hander Matthew Boyd (6-10, 4.33 ERA), who has a 2.93 ERA and 0.99 WHIP at Comerica Park this season.
Tyler Fenwick is a reporter for MLB.com based in Detroit.