The Twins needed a baserunner in the bottom of the 10th inning and the score tied Monday night. Manager Rocco Baldelli went with an interesting choice: his next day's starting pitcher.
Kenta Maeda was put on second base after the Twins had emptied their bench, and he came around to score on Max Kepler's single to give the Twins a 6-5 victory over the Tigers at Target Field.
Willians Astudillo struck out with the bases loaded to end the ninth inning, but he didn't play in the field in the top of the 10th. Rather, the Twins put Gilberto Celestino — who had pinch run for designated hitter Brent Rooker — in center, meaning Astudillo's spot in the order now belonged to the pitcher.
Baseball's extra-inning rules say that if the pitcher's spot made the final out of the previous inning, a team can choose the batter before that one to start at second base instead. In the Twins' case Monday, that was catcher Mitch Garver.
Baldelli decided against it.
"No disrespect to Mitch, I do think Kenta's probably faster than him," Baldelli said. "We were going to put the guy out there that ran the best at that point. And he has experience doing it too. That's kind of how we landed, but we had to get a little creative today."
Maeda, who ran the bases plenty of times in the NL with the Dodgers, didn't advance when Miguel Sano struck out and Jake Cave lined out, but after Andrelton Simmons walked, Kepler struck a single to right-center for his second walkoff hit this season.
"Kep's not afraid to get a big hit," Baldelli said.
The Twins needed to go extra innings after Taylor Rogers left five pitches into the ninth inning trying to protect a two-run lead. He felt some discomfort and the Twins said he had a sprained left middle finger.
In his place, Alexander Colome came in for his first ninth-inning save situation since April 21. He gave up a single to Jeimer Candelario, and one out later Robbie Grossman tied the score with a pinch-hit home run.
Michael Pineda retired 11 consecutive batters before giving up a single to Jonathan Schoop, followed by a two-run homer to Miguel Cabrera in the top of the sixth inning. That tied the score at 2-2, but Rooker promptly untied it in the bottom of the inning with his third home run of the season and second in as many days. Two batters later, Josh Donaldson hit a two-run homer to give the Twins a 5-2 lead.
Pineda, who figures to be a name discussed in trade talks this week, struck out six and gave up five hits in his six innings of work.
"Mike has been probably an underappreciated security blanket for us," Baldelli said of Pineda. "He wants to win when he takes the mound. That's the only thing he cares about."
In his first start at Target Field since May, Garver made his presence felt. He was 2-for-3 with two doubles. Garver, who had been out because of a groin injury, returned July 19 at Chicago but then was placed on the paternity list for the birth of his son, Gamble. He returned to the active roster Sunday.
The Twins got on the board first in the bottom of the second, when Garver doubled to right field, scoring Donaldson from first base. Garver doubled again his next time up and was driven in on a single by Miguel Sano in the bottom of the fourth to make it 2-0.