Out of necessity, Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch must construct an elaborate puzzle every few games.
He’s forced to mix and match a crew of relievers to finagle his way through nine innings. For 16 outs on Saturday, the pieces fit snugly.
Then all the pieces were scattered all over Minnesota’s Target Field.
His club gave away a four-run lead and lost for the third straight time to the Twins, 9-4. The Tigers will look to salvage the finale of the four-game set on Sunday before the All-Star break.
“It takes a lot of guys to have good days to get through this unscathed,” Hinch said. “We were close.”
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With Matthew Boyd and Spencer Turnbull on the injured list and Jose Urena enduring an extended rough patch, Hinch tried to squeeze a few innings here, a couple more outs there, from his bullpen arms.
Kyle Funkhouser got the first seven outs and Daniel Norris pitched out of a third-inning jam. Erasmo Ramirez cruised through the next two innings as the Tigers built their lead.
Alex Kiriloff’s two-run blast off Ramirez in the sixth, though, cut the Tigers’ lead in half.
Joe Jimenez was Hinch’s choice in the seventh. Jimenez had given up just six earned runs in his last 21 appearances, spanning 18 innings, but he was ineffective on Saturday afternoon.
He allowed a pair of one-out singles before Jorge Polanco pummeled a hanging slider into the right-field stands to erase Detroit’s lead.
Hinch had his All-Star, lefty Gregory Soto, warming in the bullpen. The numbers told him to keep the right-hander in the game against the switch-hitting Polanco, batting .237 from the left side.
Soto then would have faced left-handed Trevor Larnach if Polanco hadn’t put his team on top.
“The home run definitely changed the course of that inning,” Hinch said.
The Tigers had a chance to at least tie it in the top of the eighth, but Eric Haase and Jeimer Candelario struck out to leave Jonathan Schoop stranded at third.
The bottom of the inning was even worse. Hinch brought in the usually reliable Jose Cisnero, who had walked only two batters in his last 10 appearances. Cisnero then issued free passes to two of the first four batters he faced.
Luis Arraez then ripped a two-run single, and Cisnero was replaced by Ian Krol, whose first offering was a high slider that bounced off Haase’s glove as a run scored. When Haase went to retrieve the ball, it slipped out of his grasp, caromed off his foot and into the camera well, allowing another run to score.
“The back half of this game was a mess,” Hinch said. “We didn’t do a lot right.”
The odds of having these implosions increase when a manager needs to piece together so many good outings from a parade of arms.
“Usually, you can win games with a guy having a bad day here or there,” he said. “But when multiple guys have tough days, it is hard.”
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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Why Detroit Tigers’ Joe Jimenez stayed in to give up go-ahead homer