Reliever Joel Zumaya’s painful right arm injury marred Detroit’s move into first place, after the Tigers used four first-inning runs against Francisco Liriano to beat the Minnesota Twins 7-5 on Monday night. Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera hit two-run doubles in the first off Liriano, who surrendered a season-high six runs in six-plus innings while the Tigers passed the Twins for a half-game lead in the AL Central.
That took the background to Zumaya’s health, though, when the hard-throwing right-hander squirmed and winced around on the mound in obvious pain after throwing a pitch with one out in the eighth inning.
Zumaya, who missed large chunks of the last two seasons because of shoulder problems, was in so much discomfort his right thumb was shaking while the trainer checked him out. Jose Valverde came in and got five straight outs for his 18th straight save, making a winner of Jeremy Bonderman (4-5) and moving the Tigers into first place for the first time since May 20.
They were tied then with the sputtering Twins, who have led the division this season for all but a handful of days. Minnesota fell to 10-15 in June, despite a home run and an RBI triple – his first three-base hit in more than six years – by Jim Thome.
The Twins hit into three double plays and lead the majors with 88. Liriano (6-6) lost his third straight start, the latest Twins starter to fail to stop the slide. Other than Carl Pavano, their rotation is reeling. Just like on June 17, when Colorado scored three times in the first inning against Liriano and cruised to a victory behind ace Ubaldo Jimenez, the Twins couldn’t fully recover from an early deficit.
They had plenty of opportunities against Bonderman, but that bedeviling double-play ball kept getting in the way. Joe Mauer managed a mere sacrifice fly with runners at second and third and no outs in the first, and Jason Kubel ended the inning by bouncing into his first of two double plays.
In the third, the Twins had the bases loaded with one out when Kubel killed the rally. Thome tried his best to pick them up, though, blistering a ball off the right-field wall that ricocheted hard to the right on Boesch. It rolled far enough to let Thome – balky back and all – rumble all the way to third with a sliding triple while Bonderman watched in astonishment.
Delmon Young drove in Thome with a single, and two innings later the home run brought the Twins within 5-4. Liriano regrouped nicely after the nightmare in the first, which started when he hit Austin Jackson with a pitch.
Ramon Santiago’s perfect bunt produced a single when Liriano and first baseman Justin Morneau both charged the ball – leaving the bag uncovered. Ryan Raburn ripped a single just past shortstop Nick Punto’s glove, setting the stage for the big hits by Cabrera and Boesch – the two players giving the Tigers the most offense this month and strong candidates for the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards, respectively.
After Carlos Guillen’s single made it six straight batters to reach base, a few boos leaked out of the sellout crowd. This was only the third time in 15 starts this season Liriano allowed more than three runs.
NOTES: Thome’s homer was the first opposite-field shot by a left-hander at Target Field. Two others went the other way for round-trippers to right. … Bonderman gave up one hit the first time through the Twins lineup but five on the second turn, a continuation of his trend this season. His batting average against the first time through is .186, .305 on the second turn.
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