Worley's quality debut for Twins ends in a loss
MINNEAPOLIS -- With a rotation that finished with the second-worst ERA in the Majors in 2012, the Twins preached all offseason about how important it will be in 2013 for the starters to give the team a chance to win.
Fortunately, Vance Worley was able to do just that in his debut against the Tigers on Monday on Opening Day, but unfortunately, the offense couldn't uphold its end of the bargain.
Worley settled into a quality start, but the offense couldn't complete a late rally in a 4-2 loss in front of a sold-out Opening Day crowd on a day that featured near-freezing temperatures at Target Field.
"We had a chance the whole game, and that's all you can ask for," third baseman Trevor Plouffe said. "Our pitching kept us in there. Vance did a great job today, and our bullpen came in and did a great job. But it's all about getting those timely hits, and we didn't do that today. But I like where we're at."
The Twins battled back after falling into an early three-run hole, as Tigers ace Justin Verlander was his usual dominant self but lasted just five scoreless innings.
The Twins loaded the bases in the sixth inning and again in the seventh against reliever Drew Smyly but could only come away with two runs -- on a wild pitch in the sixth and an RBI single by Ryan Doumit off reliever Al Alburquerque in the seventh.
Alburquerque was able to get out of a big jam with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, striking out Chris Parmelee and Plouffe to end the inning. Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke then combined to close it out for Detroit, which gave Verlander his first win on Opening Day in six tries.
"We just missed some opportunities," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "The guy on the other side usually does that pretty good. Verlander is a pretty good pitcher, and they have some good bullpen guys. But we had some opportunities, and we couldn't get it done. But if we keep putting them out there, I think we'll be OK."
Worley, who was making his first career Opening Day start after being acquired in the offseason in the trade that sent Ben Revere to Philadelphia, struggled early.
The Tigers wasted no time getting on the board. Austin Jackson led off the game with a single and scored on a groundout by Miguel Cabrera after Torii Hunter singled to right. Hunter then scored on a two-out double by Prince Fielder.
Detroit added a run in the second, when Jhonny Peralta walked, stole second and scored on a single by Omar Infante.
"The first couple of innings, I was up in the zone," Worley said. "But after that I was able to get some quicker outs. It would've been nice to have that earlier, but I was just trying to get comfortable out there."
Worley settled down after that, retiring 12 of the last 16 batters he faced. He ended up giving up three runs on eight hits and a walk over six innings but was saddled with the loss.
But he was still able to outlast Verlander, who didn't allow a run and struck out seven but went only five frames after throwing 91 pitches.
"I thought Worley did a good job," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "We heard so much about him as far as being a competitor and everything. You could see that today. He competes his fanny off, and he did a good job for them. He competed very hard, and that was the report we had on him."
The Twins didn't have many chances against Verlander but finally got on the board against Smyly in the sixth. They loaded the bases with two outs, which led to Gardenhire deciding to use Wilkin Ramirez as a pinch-hitter for shortstop Pedro Florimon.
The first run scored on a wild pitch by Smyly, but Ramirez grounded a 3-2 fastball to shortstop to end the potential rally.
The Twins loaded the bases against Smyly again in the seventh inning after Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham singled and Justin Morneau walked with one out. Alburquerque entered and promptly served up an RBI single to Doumit, but Plouffe and Parmelee both struck out to end the inning.
"It was a big at-bat," Plouffe said of his strikeout. "It's something I'll continue to work on. He pitched me different than he had before, so he won that battle."
The Tigers added an insurance run in the eighth. After they loaded the bases with two outs, right-handed reliever Josh Roenicke came on in relief of Brian Duensing, but his first pitch as a member of the Twins was a run-scoring wild pitch.
The Twins went down quietly over the final two innings and haven't been above .500 since the last day of the season in 2010, but they believe it's way too early to hit the panic button.
"This is Game 1," Doumit said. "We have 161 to go. They came out on top today, but we'll see how it goes on Wednesday."