By Jordan Horrobin and Rhett Bollinger
DETROIT -- Justin Upton flung the ball into the air and the bat out of his hands as his second walk-off homer of the year lifted Detroit to a 12-11 win over Minnesota at Comerica Park on Saturday night. The home run was part of a six-run comeback Detroit compiled over the final three innings to stun the hot-hitting Twins and snap their season-high six-game winning streak.
"Talk about a range of emotions in the course of that game," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Starting out with a 5-0 lead, losing the lead, trailing, being down quite a bit and just chipping away. Tremendous comeback, really, by the guys."
Down 11-6 in the seventh, Detroit began its comeback when Mikie Mahtook hit a triple, notching his fifth straight multi-hit game, and Upton drove him in with a sac fly. In the eighth, the Tigers added three more, including a two-run homer by Jose Iglesias, which was only made possible because of an overturned double play call that allowed James McCann to be safe at first.
Up one run in the top of the ninth, the Twins had a prime chance to add breathing room with Miguel Sano at the plate and the bases loaded. But Detroit closer Shane Greene (3-2) used back-to-back sliders low and away to fan Sano and incite a roar from what remained of the crowd.
"I forget who told me this in the dugout, but they said, 'Man, if we put up a crooked number [in the eighth] and go in the ninth down one or two, I have a good feeling,'" said Mahtook, who then led off the ninth with a single.
All that was left for Upton to do was knock an elevated fastball from Twins reliever Matt Belisle (0-2) over the wall in left for his sixth career walk-off. He's up to a team-best 22 home runs and 83 RBIs, while hitting .369 with runners in scoring position this year.
"I knew it was gone right away, as soon as he hit it," Ausmus said. "Up doesn't hit a lot of home runs that you don't know right away that it's going to be gone."
The back-and-forth tilt began with a pair of shaky starters, neither of whom worked through the fourth. Twins righty Jose Berrios, who allowed 12 runs in 5 2/3 innings over his two previous starts against Detroit, picked up in similar fashion in the first. He gave up five runs, highlighted by a two-out grand slam from McCann. For the Tigers, Jordan Zimmermann allowed five runs in the third and two more in the fourth, giving way to four separate Detroit relievers for the second straight night.
Joe Mauer drove in five runs to lead an all-out offensive attack by Minnesota. Eight Twins starters had multiple hits, as the team posted 12 or more hits for the fourth time in five games. They appeared to pull away, opening up for 11 runs from the third through the sixth, until the Detroit rally began.
Minnesota's loss knocks them a half game out of the second American League Wild Card position, three back of the Yankees for the top spot, and 4 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central.
"There's not much you can say," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "It's tough to swallow those kinds, especially when you need to win games. We did a lot of good things, getting 19 hits and 11 runs, but couldn't win."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED McCann slam: McCann capped a five-run first inning by lifting a curveball into left field for his second career grand slam. A two-out rally began when Nicholas Castellanos beat out an infield single and Victor Martinez took a five-pitch walk before McCann swung at the first offering he saw from Berrios and cleared the loaded bases. McCann's other slam came on July 31, 2016, off Houston's Dallas Keuchel.
Twins take it back: Not to be outdone by Detroit's five-run first, Minnesota came back with five runs of its own in the third. First it was Mauer with a three-run double and then, two batters later, Eddie Rosario sending a full-count curveball over the right-field wall for a two-run homer. Rosario barreled his homer an estimated 445 feet, his second longest since Statcast™ started recording projected distance in 2015.
"Whether we're up 5-0, or down 5-0, we always feel like we've got a chance to win," Mauer said. "We tried to keep it going there, keep scoring runs, but couldn't always do it. Tonight was a tough one. But we don't ever feel like we're out of a game."
"It's about as bad a taste as you want to put in your mouth, I guess, especially when the team is rolling and you've got them where you want them. You never want to fail, so to speak, but tonight that's on me. That's tough to swallow, but I'm tougher than the situation, so that's OK." -- Belisle, on blowing the save
"Whether or not people are counting us out or not, that has nothing to do with it right now. You're playing for the guys in here and because you're competitive and you want to win. You're not going to go out there and be OK with just losing games just because we're supposed to lose games." -- Mahtook, on Detroit's willingness to always compete
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
With runners on the corners and one out in the eighth, McCann stepped to the plate trying to narrow the Tigers' four-run gap. He grounded the first pitch to third and the Twins turned a double play. But Detroit challenged, and after a 57-second review, it was ruled that McCann had beaten the throw at first. The overturned call gave him his career-high fifth RBI, and he scored two batters later on Iglesias' home run.
"That was huge," Mahtook said of McCann's hustle to beat the throw. "He easily could've just coasted because the run was going to score."
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: Right-hander Ervin Santana (12-7, 3.27 ERA) is set to start for the Twins in the rubber game on Sunday at 12:10 p.m. CT. Santana was solid last time out, allowing two earned runs over six innings in a win over the Brewers.
Tigers: Matthew Boyd (5-6, 5.64 ERA) takes the mound Sunday at 1:10 p.m. ET, aiming for his third win in as many starts against Minnesota this season. In an April outing against the Twins at home, Boyd allowed just one hit and two walks in six scoreless innings, while striking out six.