Twins' Kubel blows out Detroit's candles with eighth-inning slam
DETROIT -- If the Detroit Tigers thought the Minnesota Twins would be intimidated after taking a 19-3 loss Saturday night, they were badly mistaken. The Twins responded with a 6-1 victory Sunday at Comerica Park, and the most striking part was th...
DETROIT -- If the Detroit Tigers thought the Minnesota Twins would be intimidated after taking a 19-3 loss Saturday night, they were badly mistaken.
The Twins responded with a 6-1 victory Sunday at Comerica Park, and the most striking part was the confidence that oozed from Minnesota's young players.
Carlos Gomez, 22, said he knew the Twins could get inside the head of Tigers starter Justin Verlander.
"This guy is a great pitcher," Gomez said. "But his mind is not good."
Glen Perkins, 24, said he assured manager Ron Gardenhire on Saturday, as they were waiting for the bus after the 16-run loss, that he had a game plan to stymie the Tigers.
"I watched them (Friday) during BP, and a lot of their guys try to hit balls to right field," Perkins said. "They just keep going to right field. So I just knew that I had to go (inside) on them early, and it opened up the outer half of the plate."
Sure enough, Perkins dueled Verlander to a 1-1 tie through seven innings.
The Twins loaded the bases in the eighth, and with two outs up stepped Jason Kubel, on his 26th birthday.
Tigers reliever Francisco Cruceta had just struck out Michael Cuddyer with a pair of split-fingered fastballs.
Kubel laid off that pitch, and worked the count to 3-1. Cruceta challenged him with a fastball, and Kubel launched it into the right-field seats for his fourth career grand slam.
"I was just thinking I've got to put together a good at-bat and try and find a way to try to get the runner in," Kubel said. "I was able to lay off some of his splitters and got a fastball to hit."
The eighth inning remained tense, as Detroit put two runners aboard with two outs.
Perkins handed the 5-1 lead to Matt Guerrier, who struck out Miguel Cabrera with a curveball, and the Twins added an insurance run in the ninth.
The Twins improved to 25-25, including 5-3 against the big, bad Tigers and their $138 million payroll.
Gomez said he and Alexi Casilla made a point of bunting or faking a bunt in each of their at-bats against Verlander.
"That's what I told Casilla," Gomez said. "Me and you going to work this guy and mess up the mind. And then Justin (Morneau) and (Joe) Mauer get good opportunities to hit."
Gomez and Casilla bunted back to Verlander for back-to-back outs in the third inning, and Verlander glared into the Twins dugout.
"We tried to do a lot of things against Verlander, but he's tough," Gardenhire said. "We tried to bunt on him to irritate him, and I think it does (irritate him). It makes him better. So I don't know if that's a good strategy or not."
Nonetheless, Gomez said Verlander glared at him when he came to bat in the fifth.
Gomez said this of the glare he gave back to Verlander: "Why you look at me like that? No, no. You don't intimidate me. I'm not a player you look at and I've got my head down. Hell no. I look at you."
Gomez grounded out to third that at-bat and slammed his helmet on the ground.
He and Casilla combined to go 0-for-6 against Verlander, an 18-game winner last year.
Even if the plan didn't rattle Verlander to the point of being ineffective, the exchange energized the Twins dugout.
Gomez started the eighth-inning rally against Cruceta with a single to center. Casilla bunted him to second.
After walks to Mauer and Morneau loaded the bases, Kubel unwrapped his own birthday present.
Gomez said the Twins will try the same strategy against Verlander next time.
"Yeah, for sure," Gomez said. "The next time, I get three bunts again, or fake bunts. I want him to be angry."
What: Three-game series in Kansas City.
When: Starts 7:10 p.m. Tuesday.
TV/radio: All games on FSN (GF Channel 28) and KNOX (1310 AM).