There was a nice pitcher’s duel going at Target Field on Friday night. Tigers rookie Matt Manning was mowing down Twins hitters, and Kenta Maeda was sitting Tigers hitters down at an equal pace.
Then Max Kepler raised his hand.
Batting in the seventh spot, Kepler singled off Manning in the fifth inning for the Twins’ first hit, and his two-run triple in the sixth broke the game open in Minnesota’s 4-2 victory in front of a season-high crowd of 21,725.
Maeda surrendered only two hits and struck out seven in five innings, and Trevor Larnach broke a scoreless tie with a single through a drawn-in infield as the Twins improved to 5-2 against their American League Central rival.
Robbie Grossman hit a long two-run home run off Caleb Thielbar in the seventh inning for Detroit.
Manning, a rookie making his fifth major league start, cruised through five innings before Luis Arraez started the sixth with a single and Josh Donaldson followed with a walk. That marked the end of his night, but not for his stat sheet.
Left-hander Ian Kroll came in to face Larnach and almost immediately balked Arraez to third and Donaldson to second. Larnach then sent a bleeder into right to score Arraez. Nelson Cruz then sent Donaldson home with a sacrifice fly to center.
Alex Kirilloff drew a walk, and Jorge Polanco popped out to third to bring up Kepler for a left-on-left matchup with Krol. Kepler reached outside for a breaking ball and lined it into short left. Grossman charged it but missed and by the time he retrieved the ball at the wall, Kepler was pulling into third base with a two-run triple and a 4-0 lead.
Jorge Alcala (2-3) pitched 1.1 innings of scoreless relief for the win, and Hansel Robles got the final five outs for his team-leading ninth save.
Manning (1-3) gave up two runs on two hits. He walked three and fanned three. The teams continue their four-game series with a 1:10 p.m. first-pitch on Saturday.