DETROIT - Casey Fien, his right arm black and blue where Victor Martinez's eighth-inning laser socked him, raised a couple of eyebrows from teammates within earshot as he spoke about the significance of the Twins' 4-3 comeback win over the Tigers on Sunday
"It's huge for our team," Fien said. "We know we can play with these guys. They were supposed to be, what, number one in the power rankings? So we just came into their place and took two. So that says a lot right there."
The confident Fien and the Twins headed back to the Twin Cities on Sunday, relieved to go 3-4 against Cleveland and Detroit last week. They not only escaped Detroit with two wins in three games, they escaped the entire road trip.
The odyssey began with an extra-inning win against Cleveland, and soon it turned into a mini-saga. There was a walk-off loss. Eduardo Escobar had to learn center field on the fly. Joe Mauer battled a perplexing back issue. Oswaldo Arcia was supposed to be called up, but his wrist began to ache. Less than 12 hours later, Sam Fuld was placed on the disabled list with a concussion, leading the Twins to start Thursday's game with a one-man bench.
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They moved to Detroit, where they outlasted a Cy Young winner while a fire in a janitor's closet forced the shutdown of the sound system. And Sunday's game? What a barrel of fun that was.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected in the fourth inning while he argued for a double play because the Tigers' Austin Jackson was hit with what Gardenhire believed was a routine double-play ball. So the man in charge was in his office as the Twins battled back from a 3-0 deficit in the seventh.
With runners on first and second, Santana batted for Aaron Hicks and lined a single to right. Josmil Pinto scored the Twins' first run of the game - after he blew by Joe Vavra's stop sign at third.
"When I touched third base I saw his hands like this," Pinto said while raising his hands with palms forward. "I turned my head a little bit and saw that Torii (Hunter) threw the ball to second base."
Facing Joba Chamberlain in the eighth, Pinto delivered a two-run single, and the second run scored when the ball bounced by Tigers left fielder Rajai Davis for an error. And Nunez followed with an RBI single, scoring Pinto with what turned out to be the winning run.
"We're not a three-run homer team," third baseman Trevor Plouffe said, "but we can scrape together some innings."
The Twins have some ongoing issues that must be addressed. The starting pitching has improved some, with Samuel Deduno giving up three runs over six innings on Sunday to keep the Twins within striking range, but it lacks consistency. The Twins offense entered Sunday batting .218 with runners in scoring position, which was 14th in the American League and 25th in baseball.
But the Twins are 3-3 in one-run games on the road. And they are 2-2 in extra-inning games on the road. That's respectable, but a team always feels energized by winning close games on the road, and the Twins have been able to experience that feeling a few times this season.
"I've said all along we don't ever feel like we are out of it," Gardenhire said. "It may look like we are out it. I always feel we've got something in us. We're getting after it pretty good. There were some big at-bats, some big hits, and it was a really nice win. A good way to go home to an off day."