Minnesota came into the series having only five wins in their last 16 games. They had fallen into third place after being in first most of the season. Still, Tigers fans always fear the worst when the Twins come to town. This time the Tigers took game one 7-3 in relatively stress-free fashion.
The Bengals jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the first inning against Twins starter Francisco Liriano. The inning featured three straight singles by the heart of the order - Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera and Brennan Boesch. They added five more in the second thanks to a two-run single by Ordonez and a two-run triple by Carlos Guillen. They led 7-0 after two innings with their ace Justin Verlander on the mound.
The Tigers would not score again against four Twins relievers but there was no way Jim Leyland was going to let this one get away. He made two preemptive moves to make sure the Twins would not sneak back into it. When Verlander allowed five straight singles in the sixth to make it 7-2, Leyland immediately removed him. Normally, he would let let Verlander try to work his way out off a mess in the sixth inning of a two-run game but not tonight. Rookie Robbie Weinhardt came into the game with the bases loaded and one out and induced Delmon Young to hit into a double play.
The second Leyland decision came in the ninth. Ryan Perry allowed the first two batters to reach in the ninth. In a typical game, Leyland would have left him in there for at least another batter. Tonight though, he brought in closer Jose Valverde with a five-run lead. Valverde allowed a single to J.J. Hardy to make it 7-3 but then retired the final three batters in succession.
Tomorrow, night it will be Jeremy Bonderman versus Nick Blackburn. It's a pretty good match-up for the Tigers but if Bonderman pitches the way he has in the last couple of outings, you can bet that the Tigers manager will have a quick hook again. It's an important series and Leyland is going to do everything he can to give them a chance at a series win.