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Twins' offense ignites, become first team in 2014 to plate 20 runs

Twins center fielder Danny Santana high fives third base coach Scott Ullger after homering in the second inning vs. the Detroit Tigers en route to a Minnesota blowout. Photo:

Twins center fielder Danny Santana high fives third base coach Scott Ullger after homering in the second inning vs. the Detroit Tigers en route to a Minnesota blowout.

The Twins beat the Tigers 20-6 Friday night, becoming the first major league team to score 20 runs this season. The last team to score 20 runs in a game was the eventual world champion Red Sox, who won 20-4 on Sept. 4 of last year, also against the Tigers. The last time a team other than the Tigers allowed 20 runs in a game was Aug. 31, 2012, when the A’s beat the Red Sox 20-2. Prior to Friday night, the most runs scored this season was 18 by the Diamondbacks in an 18-7 win over the Dodgers on May 17. The last time the Twins scored 20 runs was May 21, 2009, when they beat the White Sox 20-1.

Friday night’s game was actually close until the bottom of the sixth. That’s when the Twins — up 6-5 heading into that frame — scored nine runs, tying the most scored in any inning this season. The Tigers had actually started the scoring in the game, going up 1-0 on Ian Kinsler’s leadoff home run off Tommy Milone. That would be Detroit’s only lead of the game.

Things started to go sour for the Tigers in the bottom of the second, when the Twins scored six runs off Detroit starter Robbie Ray, driving him from the game before he could record the second out of the inning. The first three batters in that inning — rookie Kennys VargasOswaldo Arcia and Trevor Plouffe — doubled to make it 2-1 Twins. Kurt Suzuki, who remarkably managed to go 0-for-6 with three strikeouts in a game in which every other Twins starter reached base at least twice, followed by starting his night with a strikeout, Ray’s third. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar then homered to make it 4-1 and after a Jordan Schafer single, Danny Santana homered to make it 6-1 and drive Ray, who was making his sixth major league start, from the game with his career ERA inflated by nearly two runs to 7.04.

Things settled down from there, and the Tigers mounted a comeback in the fifth after an Escobar error, his second of the game, opened the door to a four-run frame. Phil Coke and new addition Jim Johnson combined for a 1-2-3 bottom of the fifth, bringing the total number of Twins retired in a row to seven at that point, but then the dam burst in the bottom of the sixth.

Escobar, who went 5-for-6 on the night and fell a double shy of the cycle, tripled off Johnson to set the tone. Johnson then walked the next two men to load the bases and gave up an RBI single. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus then brought in lefty Ian Krol, who was acquired with Ray in the Doug Fister trade, with no one out and the bases loaded. Two singles, a walk, and a pair of errors (by Kinsler and Nick Castellanos) followed to make it 12-5 Twins with men on the corners and the Tigers still looking for the first out. Fortunately Suzuki was due up. He struck out, as did Escobar, after which another walk and RBI single chased Krol in favor of Al Alburquerque, who walked the first two men he faced — the Tigers walked nine men in the game — to force in the ninth run of the inning and make it 15-5 Twins.

Even then, the Twins were not done. They added two in the seventh off Joba Chamberlain, and when, after his team scratched out one more run to make it 17-6 in the top of the eighth, Ausmus threw in the towel by sending infielder Andrew Romine to the mound in the bottom of the eighth. The Twins jumped all over him. Vargas, Arcia and Plouffe greeted Romine, who had never pitched professionally before, with a double and two home runs to run the final score to 20-6. Fortunately for Romine, Suzuki followed them to the plate and struck out again. After an Escobar single and a pair of well-struck outs, the scoring was mercifully over.

Did I mention that this was the same Tigers team for whom David Price threw a complete-game one-hitter on Friday afternoon against his former team, the Rays, and lost 1-0? Did I mention that the Royals and Mariners, the two teams with whom the Tigers are vying for playoff spots, both won Friday night? How about the fact that the Mariners beat Boston 5-3 by scoring five runs in the ninth inning off Koji Uehara, a pitcher who had allowed just ten runs in 58 2/3 innings on the season entering that game? What about the fact that Fister, the player for whom Ray was traded, is 12-3 with a 2.20 ERA for the first-place Nationals? The Tigers are now 2 1/2 games out in the AL Central, their largest deficit of the year, and are again a half-game behind the Mariners for the second AL wild-card spot. I think it’s safe to say things are not going well for the Tigers right now.

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