DETROIT -- Fan interference on Alex Avila's double in the eighth inning allowed Jhonny Peralta to score the eventual winning run, as the Detroit Tigers defeated the Minnesota Twins, 6-5, at Comerica Park on Monday. It was the Tigers' seventh straight win against the Twins, dating back to last season.
Avila's two-out double down the third-base line appeared to ricochet off a fan. The umpires ruled fan interference and said Peralta, who took off from first base on contact, would have scored.
"Looking at the replay, when the fan touched it and where [Peralta] was and where [Twins outfielder Delmon Young] was, I thought he would have scored easy," Avila said. "That play's a judgment call on the umpire, and I thought they made the right call."
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire didn't agree.
"I don't care who it hit -- when it hits a fan in the stands, it's a ground-rule double and you don't score," Gardenhire said. "However you want to call it, that guy doesn't score. So it doesn't make sense to me and what they told me didn't make any sense, either."
Early in the game, it looked like the Tigers were feeling no effects from Sunday's day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox. The Tigers couldn't have gotten off to a much better start in the game, as starter Brad Penny threw an eight-pitch opening inning -- all of them for strikes -- and the offense scored two runs in the bottom of the inning.
Outfielder Austin Jackson scored on a groundout from outfielder Brennan Boesch, and first baseman Miguel Cabrera followed with a solo home run to give Detroit a 2-0 lead. The Tigers scored another run in the third to increase their lead to 3-0.
Penny had great command early, throwing first-pitch strikes to 10 of the first 11 batters he faced, but began to lose location as the game progressed. The Twins scored one run in the fourth inning and rallied for four runs in the fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead.
Penny missed most of last season with a back injury, but with Monday's warm weather came more heat.
"That's probably the strongest I've felt since I got injured last year," Penny said. "It's nice to have my strength all the way back."
As Penny's command wavered, his velocity picked up, as his fastball topped out at 95 mph on multiple pitches.
"It was almost like he wasn't sure how to use it," Avila said. "It's something we have to make an adjustment to, but all in all, he gave us a chance to win."
Outfielder Andy Dirks, batting in the No. 2 spot for the third consecutive game, lead off the sixth inning with a single, and designated hitter Victor Martinez tied the game three batters later with a two-run homer.
The Tigers loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh inning, but outfielders Jackson and Casper Wells struck out looking and Boesch grounded out into a fielder's choice to keep the game tied at 5. It was a missed opportunity that Tigers manager Jim Leyland said came from the inexperience of his hitters.
Though Minnesota went 5-for-12 with runners in scoring position, none of the hits went for more than two bases. The Tigers were 1-for-9 in those situations, but took advantage of two homers for three runs.
"The simple fact is, you've got young players up there in big situations, and sometimes it's hard to learn to knock in a run," Leyland said. "The guys that learn how to knock in a run are guys that expand the strike zone just enough, but not too much."
Avila's controversial RBI double gave the Tigers the lead in the eighth, and Jose Valverde, pitching for the third time in two days, had a 1-2-3 ninth inning that ended with a diving catch by Don Kelly.
"We had the right formula -- it didn't look like it for a while -- but we had the right formula to get a win, and we did," Leyland said.
For a Tigers team that had lost to the Red Sox three times and the rain twice in the past week, there was a little more satisfaction in fighting back and finally getting a break to earn the win. After three games in less than 36 hours, they were looking forward to a break.
"That was an exciting game right there," Dirks said. "To pull it out like we did in the end shows a lot of the character of this ballclub. We've had a long couple days, and we came out and we played just as hard today. It's been one of the hottest days we've had, but nobody let up at any point. That's the kind of team that we have."
Chris Vannini is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.