By: Sam Ekstrom | KFAN.com
When Eddie Guardado walked toward the podium to be inducted into the Twins Hall of Fame, the Target Field crowd rose to their feet and roared.
It may have been the loudest they got all night.
The Detroit Tigers used a four-run sixth inning and a masterful pitching performance by starter Rick Porcello (4-3) to shut out the Twins 4-0 on a night when numerous Twins’ greats were gathered at the ballpark.
For five innings, Twins’ starter Scott Diamond (4-6) matched Porcello pitch for pitch. The two hurlers posted zero after zero and had most onlookers anticipating another barnburner at Target Field.
Then came the sixth.
Diamond entered the sixth inning with 71 pitches and zero runs allowed.
He didn’t make it out of the frame.
An intentional walk to last year’s Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera put two runners on base with two outs for slugger Prince Fielder. Six pitches later, the Tigers had doubled three times and taken a 4-0 lead.
Fielder, Victor Martinez, and Jhonny Peralta hit the three doubles that drove in the only runs of the game. It all began with a 2-0 breaking ball to Fielder.
“I thought it was a pretty good pitch,” said Diamond, “but I think early on in the game I had the chance to kind of buzz him or get him off the plate and I didn’t take advantage of it. I think it kind of cost me in that at-bat.”
Said manager Ron Gardenhire about the intentional pass to Cabrera, “You have to get into the middle of those guys, and any time you put somebody on base in front of them you have to make decisions, and it just didn’t work out.”
The decision made sense. Entering the contest, Cabrera was hitting an outlandish .526 against Diamond. Fielder was hitting .071.
“I feel like I’d faced him well in the past,” said Diamond. “Just the way that it all played out tonight was really frustrating. I can’t let that inning blow up like it did.”
“Scotty had good numbers against Fielder,” said Gardenhire, “but like I said, he’s so dangerous, he’s so strong. [Diamond] leaves a curveball up and the guy bangs it off the bottom of the wall out there.”
While Diamond’s start hit a proverbial wall in the sixth, Porcello just kept on chugging. He completed seven shutout innings, struck out five, walked none, and only allowed three hits.
“His ball was moving all over the place,” said Gardenhire. “He was putting it in and out, and he had that nice, slow breaking ball, which kept us off balance.”
“He pitched hard in, effectively, especially to our righties. The ball was coming in there, and he made some of our lefties move their feet, too.”
Instead of sending Porcello out for the eighth inning, manager Jim Leyland sent left-hander Drew Smyly to the mound to face consecutive left-handed hitters.
Smyly walked one batter and catcher Alex Avila interfered with Brian Dozier to let the second baseman reach first. It was the only time two Twins’ hitters reached base in the same half inning.
Joaquin Benoit came on to dispel the threat, striking out Pedro Florimon and coaxing a groundout from pinch-hitter Chris Parmelee.
Jose Valverde pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the shutout.
The Twins have now failed to score more than four runs in 10 consecutive games.
Minnesota and Detroit square off again Saturday night. Sam Deduno (2-1) will face Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez (6-5) at 6:15 p.m. from Target Field.
NOTES: Trevor Plouffe was called up after the game, while Chris Herrmann was optioned back to Rochester… Miguel Cabrera was held hitless for the second consecutive game, the first time all season that’s happened… Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch for the 12th time this year. He leads the American League in that category.