MINNEAPOLIS – Max Kepler’s RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning against All-Star closer Gregory Soto gave the Minnesota Twins a 6-5 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
Soto walked the bases loaded in the ninth before striking out Willians Astudillo on three pitches, finishing him with a 100 mph fastball and a hard pump of his arm. Soto had two outs in the 10th, but then came a walk and Kepler's ninth career game-ending hit.
“I don’t know if I was totally expecting to catch 10 in this heat like I did,” Minnesota backstop Mitch Garver said. “I’m proud of the guys. That was a good performance there."
Detroit manager A.J. Hinch didn't flinch about sending out Soto again. The last time the left-hander pitched more than one inning was on July 7.
“The emotions of finishing the inning was really good, and Gregory can go as long as we need him to go,” Hinch said.
The line drive to center field was plenty deep to score pitcher Kenta Maeda, the scheduled starter for Tuesday who began the inning as the automatic runner at second. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli decided to forfeit the designated hitter with some earlier lineup shuffling.
“We don’t want to put any starting pitchers or any pitchers in that position, but we are teammates and we enjoy seeing Kenta Maeda running. We’re so happy,” Twins starter Michael Pineda said.
Robbie Grossman’s pinch-hit, two-run homer tied the game for the Tigers with one out in the ninth after Twins All-Star closer Taylor Rogers exited with a sprained left middle finger. Alex Colomé completed the walk to Jeimer Candelario, and Grossman hit the first pitch he saw for a high fly to left that landed just beyond the limestone facade.
Pineda pitched six smooth innings for the Twins in his final turn before the trade deadline. He held the Tigers scoreless until a two-out, two-run shot by Miguel Cabrera, career homer No. 495 for the two-time AL MVP.
Pineda had six strikeouts, with five hits and no walks allowed. The burly right-hander is one of several veterans on expiring contracts being shopped around this week, with the two-time defending AL Central champions Twins in last place.
“I’m not thinking about trades or whatever. This is my house. I want to stay here,” Pineda said.
Brent Rooker and Josh Donaldson homered and Garver doubled twice against Tigers starter Matt Manning, scoring on a single by Miguel Sanó in the fourth. Rooker took Manning deep to start the sixth and snap a 2-all tie, reaching the third deck above left field for the second straight game. The homer was projected at 460 feet.
Manning was pulled after walking Jorge Polanco, and then Donaldson crushed an 0-1 slider from José Cisnero — watching it sail into the second deck behind center field for his 16th homer.
Eric Haase also homered for the Tigers, who have lost eight road games in a row. They won their first seven games out of the All-Star break, but they've started 0-4 on this six-game trip.
"We keep giving ourselves opportunities to win. I think getting over that initial hump, buckling down middle to end of games, I need to do a better job of navigating that bullpen through," said Haase, the team's catcher.
Jonathan Schoop singled before Cabrera's homer and stretched his career-best hitting streak to 16 games, the longest active run in the majors. Schoop's streak is the longest for the Tigers since a 17-game run by Nick Castellanos in September 2017.
The Twins had their first-round draft pick, right-handed pitcher Chase Petty, at the ballpark before the game after finalizing his first contract with a $2.5 million signing bonus. The New Jersey native was the 26th overall selection out of Mainland Regional High School.
“I’m definitely very headstrong, a very competitive pitcher," Petty said. "I don’t know anybody who has more of a dog mentality than I do, that I’ve ever met. So when I’m on that mound it’s kind of just attack, attack, attack. I don’t really see a guy truly beating me in this game.”
The Twins have signed 18 of their 21 draft picks from this month.
Tigers: RHP Michael Fulmer, out for the last month with a neck strain, pitched a scoreless inning in a rehab appearance on Sunday. He's close to being reinstated from the injured list, Hinch said.
Twins: CF Byron Buxton (broken left pinkie) has added light gripping exercises to his rehabilitation program for strengthening and mobility work on his hand. He's been out five weeks.
Tigers: LHP Tyler Alexander (1-1, 4.24 ERA) pitches Tuesday night. The reliever-turned-starter gave up two runs in 3 1/3 innings against Minnesota on July 17.
Twins: Maeda (4-4, 4.63) takes the mound for the middle game of the series. He has a 2.35 ERA in four starts this month.