MINNEAPOLIS -- With the bullpen combining to throw 18 innings over their previous three games against the Rays, the Twins were hoping right-hander Kevin Correia would give them some length in his start against the Tigers on Friday night.
After all, Correia was solid against the Tigers last season, going at least 6 2/3 innings in each of his three starts against Detroit with a 2.18 ERA.
Instead, Correia was hit hard, and couldn't get out of the third inning, as the Tigers used a seven-run rally in the third for a 10-6 win in the series opener at Target Field.
Correia gave up eight runs (seven earned) on eight hits and two walks, lasting just 2 1/3 innings for the shortest outing by a Twins starter this season to put even more strain on the bullpen. It was also his shortest since going two innings against the Royals on Aug. 5, 2013.
"Kevin was up and out over the plate an awful lot, and those guys shot the ball to right field and pretty much everywhere," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "They're a team that can hit. He just couldn't get the ball on the inner-half of the plate and they made him pay for it."
It was a rough first meeting of the year against the Tigers for the Twins, who entered the game with a chance to move into a tie for first place in the American League Central. But the Twins fell behind by eight runs in the third inning and nine runs in the sixth, and couldn't climb all the way back after Correia's struggles.
"I just wasn't able to hit any of my spots," said Correia, who saw his ERA jump from 5.47 to 7.33 in five starts. "I can't pitch like that against a team like that. You're going to get hit around."
The Tigers opened the scoring in the second inning on a two-run blast from Nick Castellanos to right field after Chris Colabello dropped a shallow fly ball hit by Austin Jackson for a two-base error.
The homer was a sign of bad things to come for Correia, who was charged with seven runs in the third. Torii Hunter led off with a double before moving over to third on a groundout from Miguel Cabrera.
After Cabrera's groundout, eight straight Tigers reached base, with Victor Martinez bringing home the first run of the inning with a single to right field. Jackson then doubled before Castellanos singled home Martinez. Alex Avila walked to load the bases before Correia walked Andrew Romine to bring in another run that forced Correia from the game.
"We just got pitches that we could drive," Hunter said. "He left some balls up where we could capitalize on them. This guy pitches really well against us. We don't score many runs off him. But tonight we felt good at the plate, and I think we were a little patient today and got some pitches we could handle."
Correia was frustrated most by the two walks, but said he'll have to approach the Tigers differently the next time he faces them, as many of their hits were to the opposite field, including the homer by Castellanos and Hunter's double.
"The majority of the balls they hit went the other way so that'll be an adjustment I'll have to make," Correia said. "We face these guys a lot, and they have a new lineup. I have to figure out how to get those guys out."
Correia was replaced by right-hander Anthony Swarzak, who promptly gave up three straight hits to Rajai Davis, Ian Kinsler and Hunter to allow four more runs to score. Swarzak got out of the jam by getting Cabrera to ground into an inning-ending double play, so Cabrera was responsible for all three outs in an inning in which 11 Tigers came to the plate.
Detroit stretched it to a nine-run lead in the sixth on an RBI single from Cabrera off Swarzak to score Hunter, who hit a leadoff double.
But Minnesota didn't go down quietly against Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello, who surrendered four runs on six hits over five-plus innings. He was in control early, only allowing a run in the second on a sacrifice fly from Kurt Suzuki before unraveling in the sixth.
Brian Dozier led off the sixth with his team-leading seventh homer before Joe Mauer singled and Trevor Plouffe walked with none out to knock Porcello from the game. Reliever Justin Miller came in, but gave up an RBI single to Colabello and an RBI double to Jason Kubel. Suzuki then added his second sacrifice fly to make a five-run game.
The Twins scored again in the seventh on a two-out RBI double from Plouffe after Mauer reached on an error from Kinsler at second base. But it was as close as the Twins would get, as they stranded two runners in the eighth and were held scoreless in the ninth by former Twins closer Joe Nathan, who was making his first appearance at Target Field since joining the Tigers.
"I thought our guys did a real nice job staying in it," Gardenhire said. "They put together some decent swings and got back in the game. One more big hit there and we're even closer. But a big inning like that eats you up early."