DETROIT -- Robbie Grossman, Max Kepler and Miguel Sano awakened a slumbering Twins offense with home runs, rendering Miguel Cabrera's first homer of the season meaningless in an 11-5 win over the Tigers, avoiding a three-game series sweep Thursday at Comerica Park.
The Twins and Tigers left town tied atop the AL Central Divsion at 6-3. Detroit begins a three-game series against reigning AL champion Cleveland Friday night at Progressive Field while the Twins return home to open a weekend series against the White Sox.
Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann (1-1) retired eight of his first nine batters before falling to his own command woes, setting a career high with five walks to go with five runs on four hits. Minnesota added six more against Anibal Sanchez, including Sano's third homer of the year. Phil Hughes (2-0) allowed four runs on five hits over 5 2/3 innings, including homers to Cabrera and Justin Upton, but took advantage of the support for the win.
"I know it's a sour note to end the homestand on a loss," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said, "but if we're going to win series, we'll be in great shape. I'll take series wins the rest of the way. If that happens, we'll be in the playoffs."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Zimmermann loses to walks: Zimmermann walked just three batters after 0-2 counts last year, and has walked more than four out of such situations in a season only once in his career. But he did it to consecutive batters in the fourth inning with Sano and Kepler, the first time Zimmermann has walked consecutive batters in any situation since 2012. Sano was thrown out at second, but Kepler's ensuing walk lengthened the three-walk inning for Eddie Rosario's two-out RBI single.
"Third inning came around and I had zero feel for the ball," Zimmermann said. "I wasn't sweating, so I was doing everything I could, blowing on my hand. I'd get a little moisture that way, and as soon as I'd put the ball behind my back and take the sign, everything dried up. It should've been a lot worse than what it was today, to be honest with you. I had no clue where the ball was going."
Kepler crushes Sanchez: Zimmermann's fifth walk in 10 batters brought an end to his afternoon, as Ausmus turned to Sanchez to try to contain the damage. Kepler thwarted that, sending Sanchez's second pitch two-thirds of the way up the right-field seats for a three-run homer and a 6-2 lead. Statcast™ estimated the drive at 422 feet with an exit velocity of 108 mph.
"Max has been a little bit hot and cold so far," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You would like think a day like today might springboard him a little bit." More >
"I've never faced Ubaldo, so this was my first at-bat against a Jimenez. I was pretty excited, especially against a new kid, until they told me he threw 98 with a nasty slider. That wasn't as exciting." -- Chris Gimenez on facing Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez in his Major League debut
"I think we have a chance to compete very well offensively, and those two guys [are] young players that still might be a little bit susceptible to the streakiness that young players have to fight through. One of the things that we have to be patient with is that we have a lot of young guys in key spots in the lineup, and we're going to have to go through that. But they showed you what they can do when they're swinging the bats well." -- Molitor on Sano and Kepler
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Tigers are the first American League team to homer in each of its first nine games to begin a season since the 2012 Cleveland Indians, who also homered in nine straight.
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins head back to Minnesota for a 10-game homestand, starting with the White Sox on Friday night at 7:10 CT. After lasting just 1 2/3 innings his first Major League start against the Sox last weekend, Adalberto Mejia (0-1, 10.80) will get a shot at redemption on Friday as he gets the start, facing off with Dylan Covey, who is making his Major League debut.
Tigers: Detroit begins a three-city, nine-game road trip with a visit to its demons from last year, opening a three-game series against the Indians, who won 14 of 18 against them on their way to the American League Central title and AL pennant. Daniel Norris, who beat the Indians last September, starts Friday's series opener in a 7:10 p.m. ET game at Progressive Field.