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Tigers pitchers struggle with control in 5-3 loss to Twins

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MINNEAPOLIS - Control hadn't been much of a problem for the Detroit Tigers' staff until Saturday at Minnesota.

Four Tigers pitchers walked a combined eight batters, five in the Twins' four-run fifth inning that led to a 5-3 win.

In their first 20 games, the Tigers' staff had walked an American League-low 52 batters. They hadn't had more than five in any single game.

A walk to Joe Mauer in the fifth inning with the bases loaded tied the game, and Trevor Plouffe followed with a two-run single up the middle to give Minnesota the lead.

"It was a bad couple of innings in terms of walks," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who had to go to his bullpen early when starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez developed a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand.

Phil Hughes allowed two first-inning runs and stopped the Tigers from there and Josmil Pinto hit his fifth homer of the season in the Twins' fourth win in their past six games.

"It was good, I was able to settle down pretty quick and get on a little bit of a roll, which was nice," said Hughes, who allowed four hits with six strikeouts and no walks in seven innings.

Sanchez appeared to be cruising when he had to leave the game with two outs in the third inning. He hadn't allowed a hit and struck out two with two walks.

"I never got a blister like that before," Sanchez said. "I felt my skin moving, when I saw the blood on my finger, I tried to get out of the inning. But, no chance."

Manager Brad Ausmus had little choice when he took a look at the injury.

"As soon as I went out there and saw it I was caught between throwing up and pulling him out of the game," said Ausmus. "It looked gross."

Jose Ortega, who had just arrived from Triple-A Toledo, and Phil Coke then combined to walk six Twins batters — five in the fifth.

A throwing error by catcher Bryan Holaday and a bases-loaded walk by Coke allowed Minnesota to tie the game in the fifth without a hit.

Plouffe's two-run single snapped a 2-2 tie and Pinto's homer off Al Albuquerque in the eighth provided an insurance run.

"It was a tough spot for the entire bullpen," Ausmus said. "We were a little bit strapped going into today as it was. Sanchez's injury straps us even more."

The Tigers used six pitchers in Friday's 10-6 win over the Twins and sent four out in Saturday's loss.

"There is quite a bit of guys who didn't pitch today," Ausmus said. "We have some arms out there. The middle part of the pen has certainly been taxed."

Detroit took a first-inning lead after Sam Fuld couldn't hang onto Miguel Cabrera's fly to deep right, allowing Torii Hunter to score from first. Cabrera went to third on Fuld's bad throw and scored on Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly.

That was all the Tigers could muster against Hughes, though. The veteran right-hander made efficient work of Detroit's lineup the next six innings. Jared Burton pitched a scoreless eighth and Glen Perkins pitched the ninth for his sixth save in seven chances.

Martinez led off the ninth with a homer.

Sanchez threw 53 pitches without allowing a hit and was in the middle of Dozier's at-bat when Holaday, head trainer Kevin Rand and pitching coach Jeff Jones went to the mound.

Shortly after being joined by Ausmus, Rand and Sanchez walked off the field.

Notes: The Tigers optioned RHP Justin Miller — who pitched two-thirds innings on Friday night and allowed a run and two hits — to Toledo to make room for Ortega. "It had nothing to do with how Justin pitched last night. He had pitched well the previous two outings, it was just we needed help for the bullpen," Ausmus said. ... Ausmus says he plans to put C Alex Avila (shin) back into the lineup Sunday. Avila was hurt sliding into home plate on Friday. Ausmus reiterated RHP Rick Porcello (elbow) should make his next scheduled start Wednesday. Porcello was hurt after a line drive deflected off his glove and hit his throwing elbow. ... A day after his relievers threw 6 2-3 innings, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire put starter Mike Pelfrey in the bullpen as "an emergency-type guy." Asked about tweaking his starting rotation, Gardenhire said, "You've got to give them a little bit of time here . These guys are here for a reason, we think they're going to be good and hopefully they'll get rolling and we don't have to have this conversation." ... The Tigers and Twins wrap up their three-game series on Sunday when Justin Verlander (3-1) takes the mound for Detroit. Minnesota righty Kyle Gibson (3-1) will make his start against the Tigers for the first time.

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