MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers manager A.J. Hinch has never seen anything like this before.
“That was an ugly ending,” Hinch said.
A line drive from Miguel Sano clipped Robbie Grossman’s glove and rolled to the right-field wall with two runners on base and one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Tigers aimed to protect a one-run advantage.
“Just out of my reach,” Grossman said. “Got the ball back in and obviously we saw what happened.”
The Tigers found a new way to get walked off, with a series of defensive miscues and a game-changing error. They lost Tuesday’s three-game series opener, 5-4, to the Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Both runners got late starts as the relay throw — from Grossman to second baseman Jonathan Schoop — went to catcher Eric Haase near home plate. When Haase got the ball, Trevor Larnach and Gio Urshela seemed destined to both occupy third base. As Haase ran toward third, he decided to throw to the base, but the ball sailed into left field, allowing the tying and winning runs to score.
“Never had a good grip,” Haase said.
Detroit Tigers catcher Eric Haase walks off the field as the Minnesota Twins celebrate their walk-off win.
Closer Gregory Soto walked the first two hitters he faced on eight straight pitches before striking out Max Kepler, setting the stage for Sano.
Before the wild last play, the Tigers needed some magic.
Hinch’s squad strolled into Target Field on Tuesday having lost four of five series this season. The slow-to-start offense amid chilly April temperatures in the Midwest is to blame.
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The key to the offense’s ignition revealed itself in Tuesday’s series opener. Shortstop Javier Báez drilled a three-run home run to center field with one out in the eighth inning.
The 415-foot line drive from Báez, which had a 108.6 mph exit velocity, gave the Tigers (6-10) a one-run lead against Twins right-handed reliever Emilio Pagan. He hit Pagan’s second-pitch splitter in a 1-0 count.
Báez finished 2-for-3 with four RBI and one walk in his second game since returning from a thumb injury.
Before Sunday’s return, the 29-year-old hadn’t played since April 12. His other home run in 2022 occurred April 11 against the Boston Red Sox, breaking a 1-1 tie in the eighth inning.