The Minnesota manager watched his team score four runs in the top of the first inning Friday night — and it wasn't nearly enough against the surging Tigers. Detroit made quick work of the early deficit and went on to beat the Twins 8-4.
"There's a point when you have so much confidence in your offense that you are never going to panic when you get behind early," Gardenhire said. "I imagine that's how they must be feeling right now — that they are swinging the bats so well that they are always going to have a chance to come back."
The Twins won the AL Central last year, but like everyone else in the division, they're looking up at the first-place Tigers right now. Alex Avila hit a three-run homer in the second inning and Ramon Santiago added a two-run shot in the fourth to help Detroit rally for its seventh straight victory. The Tigers lead the second-place Chicago White Sox by 9½ games.
Minnesota's Kevin Slowey (0-5) allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings.
"It's always frustrating to give everything back when you get an early lead," Slowey said. "I felt like I let everyone down, because it was 4-0, and then I gave them three back and then gave them three more a couple innings later."
The Twins have lost six of seven and 15 of 19.
Brad Penny (10-10) allowed the four runs in the top of the first but settled down after that. He ended up allowing only five hits in five innings.
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said before the game he'd talked to Penny about picking up the pace a bit on the mound and not working so slowly. Of course, outs are the only real way to speed up the game, and the right-hander had a hard time getting them in the first inning. After a 51-minute rain delay at the start of the game, Jason Kubel hit an RBI single, Danny Valencia followed with a two-run triple, and Chris Parmelee added an RBI single to make it 4-0.
"He didn't have much more margin for error," Leyland said. "That I can promise you."
In Penny's previous start, Detroit rallied from an 8-1 deficit to beat the White Sox 9-8, and the Tigers didn't stay down for long in this one. Avila started the comeback with an opposite-field homer, his 18th of the season. Then, in the fourth, Wilson Betemit tied it with an RBI triple.
Santiago followed with his fifth homer of the season to make it 6-4.
"I just couldn't get the ball down in the strike zone — I think you could count on two hands the number of pitches that I actually got down where I wanted them," Slowey said. "That's an aggressive, hard-hitting team, and they hit just about everything I left up in the zone."
Delmon Young — traded from the Twins to the Tigers last month — added a solo homer in the fifth to make it 7-4. Young has eight homers on the season, including four in only 23 games with Detroit.
Minnesota's Joe Mauer started at catcher, the first time he's played the position since Aug. 20. He's played only 78 games this season because of a variety of injuries. Mauer singled and scored in the first, but was charged with a passed ball in the eighth.
Brandon Inge hit a sacrifice fly in the eighth to make it 8-4.
NOTES: Twins OF Ben Revere looked like he might be hurt after an inside pitch around his right wrist in the seventh, but he stayed in the game. Daniel Schlereth, the Detroit pitcher, said he thought the ball hit the bat. "Pretty good acting job," Schlereth said. ... The Tigers officially placed OF Brennan Boesch on the 15-day disabled list. Boesch is not expected back this season after surgery on his right thumb. ... Minnesota LHP Francisco Liriano, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, is expected to throw a bullpen session Sunday. ... ... Max Scherzer (14-8) takes the mound for Detroit on Saturday against Minnesota's Anthony Swarzak (3-6). ... The Tigers are 12-4 against the Twins this year.