Detroit Tigers reliever Bruce Rondon was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after walking back-to-back batters in the eighth inning of a tie game.
The Minnesota Twins went on to score twice in that inning as the Tigers lost, 6-4, this afternoon at Comerica Park.
Rondon’s meltdown began by throwing six consecutive balls. He managed one strike on nine total pitches before he was replaced by Warwick Saupold. Rondon declined to talk to reporters after he was optioned.
“We’re trying to keep the game where it’s at,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said when asked about Rondon’s consecutive walks. “He had a little trouble throwing strikes. That’s why I went to Saupold quickly.”
Byron Buxton hit an RBI single to center off Warwick Saupold to break the tie. Ehire Adrianza added a sac fly to left to give the Twins the two-run cushion.
“It was really the first four pitches that were alarming,” Ausmus said of Rondon’s outing. “They weren’t real close.”
Asked about Rondon’s inconsistency, Ausmus revealed that Rondon had been optioned back to Triple-A. Asked why the decision was made, Ausmus said: “That’s the decision that was made.”
Rondon was sent home in late September 2015 for “effort” issues. He’s not come close to fulfilling the potential the Tigers saw in him when former president/general manager Dave Dombrowski once touted him as a potential rookie closer.
With right-handed pitcher Michael Fulmer being activated from the disabled list to start on Monday against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas, a corresponding move was expected after the game. Drew VerHagen seemed a more likely choice before Rondon’s poor performance.
Rondon took the loss and is 1-3 with a 10.91 ERA in 21 games this season. He has allowed 21 hits and 10 walks over 15 2/3 innings with 22 strikeouts.
The Tigers trailed, 4-0, before things got wild.
Justin Upton led off the fourth with a double, moved to third on a single by Nick Castellanos and scored on a sac fly to left by John Hicks.
Three passed balls, a failed catch error and a wild pitch allowed the Tigers to tie the game in the fifth.
“It was not the normal way of having a rally but it got us right back in the game,” Ausmus said.
Mikie Mahtook reached on an error by Miguel Sano and Alex Presley followed with a double to right. With one out, Mahtook scored on a passed ball by Chris Gimenez. Presley scored on a RBI single by Castellanos. With Hicks batting, Castellanos advanced to second on the second passed ball by Gimenez. After Hicks drew a walk, Ervin Santana hit Victor Martinez with a pitch to load the bases.
James McCann struck out swinging, but the ball bounced off the mitt of Gimenez, which allowed Castellanos to score from third.
Presley hit a two-out single in the eighth and finished 3-for-5 with a run scored. Castellanos, Martinez and James McCann each two hits.
Ian Kinsler (swollen wrist) and Miguel Cabrera (lower back) were held out of the lineup Sunday. Ausmus said after the game that Cabrera was available to pinch hit.
Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd gave up four runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out five. It’s the third consecutive outing he’s failed to give the Tigers a quality start.
Brian Dozier led off the game with a solo home run to left-center. The Twins added another run in the second and two more in the third to take a 4-0 lead. Buxton’s sacrifice bunt scored Eddie Rosario in the second inning. Sano hit a two-run home run to left in the third.
“Home run balls hurt him but he did a nice job of settling down and getting through six, or almost six,” Ausmus said. “That’s what you have to do to learn as a young pitcher. When things aren’t going right, see if you can right the ship.”
Twins starter Ervin Santana allowed four runs (two earned) on seven hits over five innings. He walked two, hit one batter and struck out six.