"He threw the ball all over the plate, threw the breaking ball all over the plate, changed speeds, good curveball, good cutter. He was very impressive," said manager Jim Leyland following Downs' three innings of scoreless relief. "To me, obviously at the end, the [offense was] huge for us, I certainly don't want to downplay that, but to me with the shape our bullpen way in today, Downs was the key to the game."
Downs, who was called up from Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday, took over after a line drive by Ryan Doumit hit Rick Porcello in the right biceps, hastening the Tigers starter's exit from the game. Porcello's day wasn't going too hot anyway, allowing 12 hits in 3 2/3 innings before getting hooked with the bases loaded.
Duane Below remained unavailable because of his 60-pitch start Tuesday, Phil Coke was sent home sick Thursday morning, and Leyland didn't want to use Brayan Villarreal unless absolutely necessary. So the team needed an innings eater to keep the game within reach.
In his second-career Major League game, the 27-year-old got out of the fourth-inning jam and completed three innings of one-hit ball while striking out five of the 10 batters he faced.
"He came out and really proved himself today," outfielder Quintin Berry said. "He really was a big part in this win, and we were short-staffed in the 'pen. So for him to come out and go that many innings, that's huge, man. Good for him. I'm proud of him."
When Downs took the mound, the Tigers were being out-hit, 12-0, and were down, 3-0 on the scoreboard. The Twins were threatening for more but the rookie left-hander needed only one pitch to retire first baseman Justin Morneau in the bases-loaded situation.
He returned in the fifth to record two quick outs before shortstop Brian Dozier knocked a bloop single just out of the reach of second baseman Ramon Santiago. Dozier stole second, but a lineout by Carroll ended the inning.
Downs finished the day striking out four of the last five hitters, including a former American League Most Valuable Player and three-time AL batting champion in catcher Joe Mauer.
"He made my day easy," catcher Gerald Laird said. "He was throwing everything for a strike, getting ahead of the hitters, and when I asked him for it down and away or down in the dirt, he was making the pitch. It was fun to be back there with him. He did a great job for the first time working with him. The kid's got some talent."