DETROIT -- Ron Gardenhire’s Minnesota Twins have spent most of the last decade finding ways to beat the Detroit Tigers.

Sunday, they handed the Tigers a game instead.

The Twins made three key defensive mistakes, one in the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Tigers picked up a 4-3 victory.

“We missed some plays, and when you miss a play, you just get beat,” Gardenhire said.

The biggest blunder — the fourth of the series by Minnesota right fielder Oswaldo Arcia — directly led to Detroit’s winning run.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth and Torii Hunter on first base, Victor Martinez launched a ball to deep right field that he and everyone in the park was going to be a walk-off homer. Martinez lingered near the plate, watching the ball sail toward the bleachers, then realized he better start running.

The ball came down inches short of the top of the wall, but Arcia dropped it.

“I thought the ball was going to be further back, and when I got back to the wall, I messed up,” Arcia said.

Instead of a home-run trot, Martinez scrambled to first, while Hunter ended up at third.

J.D. Martinez followed with a fly to medium-depth center. Hunter never hesitated, and scored easily when Sam Fuld’s throw was badly off line.

The game still wasn’t officially over, as Gardenhire had his players appeal to third, thinking that Hunter might have left early, but the umpires ruled he had scored legally.

On Saturday, Arcia misjudged two balls at the wall, both of them bouncing back over his head and forcing the centerfielder to run them down, and he struggled again on Sunday.

Hunter led off the ninth with a single off Casey Fein (3-3), and Miguel Cabrera rifled a line drive that almost knocked over shortstop Dany Santana as he made a leaping catch.

Joe Nathan (3-2) pitched a scoreless ninth. He, Fein and Hunter were all playing against the teams where they started their major-league careers — Nathan and Hunter with the Twins and Fein with Detroit.

Minnesota starter Ricky Nolasco allowed three runs in 5 1-3 innings, while Detroit’s Rick Porcello pitched seven, also giving up three runs.

While Porcello took a no-decision, his start was the fourth straight above-average outing for a rotation that has struggled along with the rest of the team in recent weeks. The Tigers won three of the games, and lost the fourth 2-0.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first thanks to another defensive mistake by Arcia. With a runner on third and two out, he lost a routine flyball in the sun to give Victor Martinez an easy RBI double.

“I didn’t see the ball,” said Arcia, who only broke for the ball in the last seconds as second baseman Brian Dozier tried vainly to point it out. “The first two or three innings, the sky was clear, and I couldn’t see the ball.”

In the second, Josh Willingham added to the defensive woes, misplaying Austin Jackson’s liner into the left-field corner, turning a probable double into a stand-up triple. Nick Castellanos followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 2-0.

The Twins took the lead with three runs in the sixth. Doubles by Joe Mauer and Willingham provided the first run, and Kendrys Morales bringing home the second with a base hit.

“I almost gave the whole game away there, because I tried to get cute with Mauer and he beat me,” Porcello said. “Luckily, we kept the damage down and the guys came back in the end.”

After a walk to Arcia, Kurt Suzuki lined a single to left, and Minnesota third-base coach Joe Vavra stunned all 41,462 fans by waving the plodding Morales around third. J.D. Martinez’s throw had the runner beat by 15 feet, but Alex Avila couldn’t handle it, allowing the run to score.

Nolasco, though, couldn’t hold the lead. In the bottom of the inning, Nick Castellanos doubled in the tying run, and Nolasco intentionally walked Alex Avila to load the bases with one. It was a risky move, since rookie Eugenio Suarez had three extra-base hits on Saturday, but Jared Burton came out of the bullpen to induce an infield fly. Burton then retired Ian Kinsler to end the inning, with the score tied at three.

The Tigers threatened again in the seventh after walks to Cabrera and Victor Martinez, but Matt Guerrier got them out of the jam.

Joba Chamberlain and Nathan allowed two runners in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively. Nathan had struggled in his last six outings, allowing 11 runs in four innings, and Ausmus was happier with what he saw on Sunday.

“I saw the winning pitcher,” he said. “I thought his fastball was more consistently down, although he did leave a couple up, and his slider had good break.”

 

Leon Halip/Getty Images

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