DETROIT (AP) - Ron Gardenhire was hoping this road trip would be the start of a much-needed turnaround for his Minnesota Twins.
Instead, they began a crucial 10-game stretch with yet another frustrating loss - this one on a disputed call.
Alex Avila's double in the eighth inning that appeared to hit a fan in the stands down the left-field line scored Jhonny Peralta from first base, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Twins 6-5 on Monday.
Avila's hit rattled along the short fence near the foul line before the ball bounced up toward a fan standing in a small seating area jutting out toward the field. The umpires halted play, conferred briefly and then made the game's decisive call: fan interference and a run for the Tigers.
Gardenhire was ejected after a heated argument.
``There is no way Peralta scores if our guy gets to make a play on the ball,' Gardenhire said. ``He had just rounded second.'
Peralta was allowed to score from first on the play, breaking an eighth-inning tie. There was considerable dispute over whether someone interfered with the ball or whether it simply bounced out of play and hit someone, but the result was a victory for the Tigers and another difficult loss for Minnesota.
``I don't care who it hit. The ball went in the stands,' Gardenhire said. ``When it goes in the stands you know it's a ground-rule double.'
Detroit manager Jim Leyland came out of the dugout briefly as the umpires discussed what to do, but they quickly ruled that Peralta's run counted.
``We ruled spectator interference and we ruled the runner would have scored without it,' said crew chief Gary Darling, who was umpiring third base.
Darling said the interference came from a fan in an orange shirt. Replays showed a fan in an orange shirt standing next to a child in a small area of seats that angles out toward the field. The ball appeared to bounce up and hit the fan while he was simply standing there.
``It hit the fan in the orange and the kid right next to him and came back on the field,' Minnesota left fielder Delmon Young said. ``So it was a dead ball right there, and I don't think Peralta was even halfway to third base.'
That was after a couple other fans along the fence reached over toward the ball, although it wasn't clear if it touched any of them.
``I thought he would have scored easily,' Avila said. ``That play's a judgment call for the umpire, and I thought they made the right call.'
Al Alburquerque (2-1) pitched an inning of scoreless relief, and Jose Valverde pitched the ninth for his 13th save.
Alex Burnett (1-4) lost.
Minnesota (17-35) has by far the worst record in the American League. The struggling Twins lost right fielder Jason Kubel to a sprained left foot after six innings. X-rays were negative, and Kubel is day-to-day.
After the game, Minnesota announced left-hander Francisco Liriano is headed to the 15-day disabled list with inflammation of his throwing shoulder, less than a month after pitching a no-hitter.
This is the start of a 10-game trip, all against American League Central opponents, and Gardenhire said before the game the Twins couldn't afford to wait much longer before making up some ground.
Minnesota led 5-3 after scoring four runs in the fifth, but the Tigers tied it in the sixth on a two-run homer by Victor Martinez.
Brad Penny pitched six innings for Detroit, allowing five runs and 10 hits. He walked one and struck out two.
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead, but Michael Cuddyer hit an RBI single in the fourth for Minnesota, and the Twins broke through against Penny the following inning, when Minnesota got RBI singles from Rene Rivera, Kubel and Cuddyer and a sacrifice fly from Justin Morneau.
Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn went six-plus innings, allowing five runs and seven hits. He struck out three and walked one.
Notes: Detroit 2B Ryan Raburn had his first hit at home since April 27. ... Tigers LHP Phil Coke, on the DL with a bone bruise in his right foot, is expected to pitch at Triple-A on Friday before making a start for the Tigers on June 8. ... Minnesota C Joe Mauer, out since April 12 because of weakness and soreness in his legs and a beat-up shoulder, is able to throw from home to second. ... The game time temperature was 85 degrees.
The Associated Press News Service
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