(DETROIT FREE PRESS) - For a team cruising with a 6½-game lead in its division, a lot of trouble cropped up for the Tigers on Tuesday night.
Miguel Cabrera "was in some pain," manager Jim Leyland said, after he took a swing in the ninth inning. Later, the club said Cabrera didn't have any new injury. But the episode was a reminder of how Cabrera has been storming toward the MVP in recent weeks at less than full strength.
Left-hander Phil Coke gave up a two-run double to Justin Morneau, then was sent to Triple-A Toledo after the game. "I'm not happy," Coke said. "I don't know who would be."
Catcher Brayan Pena left for a pinch-runner in the ninth because of a sore big toe. If Pena joins Alex Avila (concussion DL) on the sideline, Bryan Holaday would become the No. 1 catcher for now.
Amid all of the above, the Tigers lost to the Twins, 6-3, in the opener of a three-game series at Comerica Park.
Starter Rick Porcello was charged with five runs, four driven in by Morneau with a two-run homer and the double off Coke that scored runners who reached against Porcello.
In each of the final three innings, the Tigers brought the potential tying run to the plate. In the ninth, it was Cabrera. Closer Glen Perkins struck him out swinging with a 1-2 fastball.
Coke saved an Opening Day win in Minnesota. His season turned south soon thereafter, and he hasn't been able to reverse it, even as Leyland has moved him from his late-inning role into middle relief. He has an 0-5 record with a 5.00 ERA, and several of his inherited runners have scored, including two Tuesday night.
Except for an injury rehab assignment, this will mark the first time Coke has been in the minors since 2008. Left-hander Jose Alvarez, who has been a starter, was recalled to take his spot.
Leyland emphasized Coke will be back for the September roster expansion, which is 10 days away. But unless Coke can regain his effective form of late last season, the Tigers apparently would enter the postseason without a veteran left-handed reliever.
"He's got to do a better job of staying out of the middle of the plate," Leyland said.
Clete Thomas, the former Tiger, might have saved the game in the eighth. With runners on second and third and one out, Andy Dirks hit a blooper to short centerfield. If it had dropped, the Tigers would have had the potential tying run on base with one out.
Thomas ran a long way, dove and snagged the ball just before it hit the grass. Part of the ball hung out from the top of his glove. But he hung on. Right-hander Jared Burton fanned Omar Infante, and the Tigers' final threat had produced nothing.
Minnesota right-hander Mike Pelfrey, who wears went 62/3 innings and allowed three runs. "I've got to tip my cap to Pelfrey," Leyland said.
In his past seven starts, Porcello was 5-0 with a 2.62 ERA. With the score 0-0, Chris Herrmann sent a grounder to the right side to open the fourth. Porcello took first baseman Prince Fielder's flip but lost the race to the bag. Herrmann was credited with a single.
One out later, Morneau launched his 13th career homer at Comerica Park.
Detroit Free Press