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Updated: May 5th, 2010 5:04pm
Pelissero: Tigers mistakes the difference in Twins' sweep

Pelissero: Tigers mistakes the difference in Twins' sweep

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by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jim Leyland has been in pro baseball since the Kennedy administration. He's seen more May sweeps than a tenured TV executive.


So, it probably shouldn't have been a shock on Wednesday when Leyland was more interested in shoveling a plate of sesame chicken down his head than chewing on the mistakes that sunk the Detroit Tigers for a third straight day.

"We have some issues that we have to take care of," Leyland said between bites, shortly after the Minnesota Twins sent the Tigers packing with a 5-4 decision at Target Field.

"Whether we had won or lost today, it doesn't make any difference. We've got some things we've got to sharpen up on. But overall, I'm pleased with the stretch."

Leyland was referring to the run of 17 games in 17 days in which the Tigers had gone 10-4 -- including taking two of three from the Twins last week at Comerica Park -- before their 48-hour declawing here.

There's no shame in a pair of one-run losses to the American League Central front-runners. But the Tigers played every bit like a team -- or rather, a collection of individuals who may or may not have taken an infield session together -- that was looking forward to its day off Thursday from the moment they arrived.

They fell behind 7-0 less than two innings into Monday's 10-4 rout. They made a critical base-running error in the ninth inning on Tuesday, minutes before a wild pitch brought home the tying run in a walk-off 4-3 win.

Then there was the fourth inning on Wednesday, when Brennan Boesch clowned a lazy fly ball off Nick Punto's bat into a run-scoring, three-base error and shortstop Ramon Santiago let Denard Span's sharp grounder get past him to score Punto with what proved to be the deciding run.

"The game is played by human beings -- it's not played by mechanical men," Leyland said. "That's all part of the game."

Really?

Then how about the outfield misplays, missed cut-off men and throws to wrong/unoccupied bases that hurt the Tigers again and again?

Detroit has committed 25 errors through 29 games.

The Twins? Six, best in the league.

No, neither team employs a gang of sophisticated robots in the field. One group of humans just doesn't make the same sorts of mistakes, much less so many in one series.

"That's our M.O.," Twins outfielder Michael Cuddyer said. "That's what we try and do, and that's why we work so hard in spring training, is to do the little things right, not make mistakes, not try to beat ourselves. We pay attention to those little details quite often."

That's what makes the Twins so dangerous this season. They have more firepower than ever at the plate, but they're still the same team that's learned to live -- and win -- all these years with a minute margin for error.

The Tigers hit five home runs in this series, all with the bases empty. Cuddyer's lone blast for the Twins was a three-run shot after Orlando Hudson singled and Justin Morneau drew one of the team's league-high 132 walks.

"We don't just have hitters on our team -- we've got baseball players," Cuddyer said. "When you have baseball players, you've got guys that really focus and really concentrate on doing things the right way."

The Twins (19-9) never trailed in this series. They haven't been 10 games over .500 this early since 2001, when they started 13-3.

The Tigers, white-hot and a half-game back coming into the series, now stand 16-13.

"They did enough to win," Leyland said. "We didn't."

And while a whole lot can change over the next five months, this sweep provided no evidence that sentence is likely to reverse itself in the long run.

No matter how much more concerned Leyland is right now with what's for dinner.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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