They found the perfect tonic on this trip to Minnesota, using the last-in-the-league Twins as a launching pad for their playoff push.
James McCann had a three-run homer among his four hits, Daniel Norris pitched into the seventh inning and the Tigers completed a sweep with an 8-5 victory on Thursday for the Twins’ seventh straight defeat.
“Our pitching is solid, especially in the second half,” manager Brad Ausmus said, “but we’re built to slug and it’s nice to see it.”
The Tigers, who are 10-2 against the Twins this year, stretched their winning streak at Target Field to eight games.
“We needed this for sure,” Norris said. “We’ve kind of been up and down a little bit, but anytime you win three in a row that’s always good.”
Norris (2-2) struck out five in 6 1/3 innings, allowing six hits without a walk in his longest and strongest start this season. He took a shutout in the sixth, surrendering RBI singles by Robbie Grossman and Eduardo Escobar over his last two innings.
“It showed me I can go out there and compete without my best stuff and get deep into games,” Norris said.
Jose Berrios (2-4) finished five innings, but the organization’s top pitching prospect gave up six runs on six hits and five walks in his ninth major league start and was optioned to Triple-A Rochester after the game. Tyler Duffey, the starter on Wednesday, was sent down, too.
“I’m surprised. However, I do understand the decision,” Berrios said through an interpreter. “I do understand they want me to go down there and gain more confidence in what I’m doing.”
His ERA actually dropped four percentage points to an unsightly 9.24.
“Young players struggling up here,” manager Paul Molitor said, “it takes its toll.”
Catcher Juan Centeno made a mound visit three batters into the game after Berrios issued back-to-back walks, and Ian Kinsler’s two-run double in the second sent the Tigers on their way.
McCann’s two-out, three-run drive into the flower bed above right-center field pushed the lead to 6-0 in the third inning. He missed the cycle by a triple.
“It definitely feels good to have another day like this,” McCann said, “and constantly making hard contact is all I’m really looking for.”
Victor Martinez went 3 for 4 with two RBIs for the Tigers, raising his career batting average at Target Field to .370 in 46 games. He’s 16 for 26 there this year and has scored seven runs in six games.
Max Kepler’s two-run double punctuated a three-run eighth for the Twins, giving him 55 RBIs to lead AL rookies, but the Twins finished 2-8 at home in August while allowing an average of 7.9 runs per game.
Francisco Rodriguez preserved the victory by striking out two in a perfect ninth for his 35th save in 38 opportunities.
J.D. Martinez’s 14-game hitting streak, the longest active run in the league and tied for the longest of his career, ended with a 0-for-5 afternoon. He was the only Tigers starter not to reach base. In 21 games since coming off the disabled list, Martinez is still batting .410 with six home runs.
Tigers: With Jose Iglesias expected back on Friday from a DL stint for a strained left hamstring, Ausmus said he’ll still play Erick Aybar at SS at times. Casey McGehee will continue to be the regular 3B with Nick Castellanos out.
Twins: Miguel Sano was the DH again, with a sore elbow that has kept him from playing 3B for a week. Molitor said he doesn’t believe Sano is confident enough yet to make the long corner throws.
Tigers: RHP Justin Verlander (13-7, 3.38 ERA), who ranks second in the league in strikeouts and innings, will take the mound on Friday at home against the Angels. RHP Ricky Nolasco (4-11, 5.22 ERA) will start for Los Angeles.
Twins: LHP Pat Dean, subbing for an injured Hector Santiago, will pitch on Friday at Toronto. Dean (1-3, 5.48 ERA) last started for the Twins on June 17. He’ll face former Twins LHP Francisco Liriano (6-12, 5.21 ERA), who was recently acquired in a trade with Pittsburgh. This will be Liriano’s fourth start for the Blue Jays.