MINNEAPOLIS - The ball sprung from Magglio Ordonez's bat and landed in the seats to give the Tigers the lead, and Francisco Liriano's head and shoulders dropped as fast as one of his 88 mph sliders.
Liriano fought to finish that seventh inning, though, just as the Twins did following a draining 16-inning defeat the night before.
Justin Morneau had four hits, including a homer and the tying single in the seventh, and Minnesota beat Detroit 4-3 yesterday.
"You play that many innings, it's a great bounce back to come and win this ballgame," manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Ordonez's three-run homer spoiled an otherwise stellar start by Liriano, but Morneau capped the rally with his hit in the bottom of the inning. Then in the eighth against Brandon Lyon (3-4), Nick Punto poked a soft single over the outstretched glove of shortstop Adam Everett to allow pinch-runner Matt Tolbert time to score on a head-first slide just ahead of the relay throw.
"The guy's fast," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He read the ball well, got a good break on it."
Matt Guerrier (4-0) pitched one inning for the win, and Joe Nathan wrapped it up with his 22nd save to pull the Twins within three games of the first-place Tigers.
Their relievers exhausted, the Twins needed the old Liriano more than ever.
Despite the devastating
seventh, he did deliver the kind of performance that has been there only sporadically since his
sensational rookie season and subsequent elbow surgery in 2006.
"He's getting there," Gardenhire said, adding: "That's the Liriano we need."
Liriano struck out eight and recorded 13 straight outs during the middle innings he's had so much trouble with this year and took a 2-0 advantage into the seventh. After two quick singles to start the frame, however, he lost the lead.
The unfamiliarly shorn Ordonez, in a season-long slump that has worsened on this road trip, crushed a first-pitch fastball over the center-field wall to make it 3-2. Liriano immediately hung his head and stared at the turf for several seconds, hands on his knees.
"Sometimes I put too much pressure on myself, trying to do too much instead of throwing nice and easy and making one pitch at a time," Liriano said.
Because the bullpen threw a combined 13 innings the game before, Liriano knew it was imperative he stay on the mound later than he has been. He intentionally threw a lot of first-pitch strikes, which ultimately hurt him in the seventh. Changing his approach when the situation dictates it remains his biggest challenge.
Tigers starter Edwin Jackson, who brought the league's second-best earned run average into the game, also gave up a home run to Michael Cuddyer in the fourth and got one out in the seventh before being removed. He got an animated pat on the shoulder from Leyland after striking out Brendan Harris following a leadoff walk drawn by Denard Span, but the late lapse in control was costly.
Span scored after back-to-back singles by Joe Mauer and Morneau against Bobby Seay, negating Jackson's effort that also helped preserve a depleted relief corps after the marathon 11-9 victory.
"That's a pesky team. That's a team that when you go out, you now you're going to have to battle against them. Those two guys, they're great hitters," Jackson said.
Jackson threw 122 pitches.
"It was one of those games where you have to go out there and gut when you don't really have your best stuff," Jackson said.
TIGERS 11, TWINS 9
MINNEAPOLIS - Placido Polanco might have been the grittiest player on a night where several were in contention after 16 innings.
The Tigers second basemen fouled a ball off his protective cup in the 14th inning, only to follow it up on the next pitch with an RBI single. He hit another run-scoring single in the 16th inning that put his team up for good in an victory over Minnesota.
After fouling a pitch from R.A. Dickey into the dirt, Polanco went down when the ball bounced back and hit him. He needed several minutes to recover and was visited by manager Jim Leyland and a team trainer behind the plate.
"It took an inning or two to finally be over it, for me to start feeling like 100 percent," Polanco said.
With runners on second and third in the 16th, Polanco lined a single through the left side of a drawn-in infield, scoring Ramon Santiago with the go-ahead run. Ryan Raburn and Magglio Ordonez added insurance runs for the Tigers.
The game lasted 5 hours and 7 minutes.
"We were here for so long that we really wanted to win the game," Polanco said. "So, you don't really think how tired you are."
Freddy Dolsi (1-0) blew a save in the 14th and allowed an unearned run in the bottom of the 16th, but held on for his second career win, ending Minnesota's attempt at a third comeback.
Marcus Thames snapped an 11-game home run drought with a two-run shot off Slowey in the third inning, and Josh Anderson hit a two-run triple in the second frame for the Tigers.44.97903 -93.26493