Brennan Boesch hit a go-ahead double shortly after a disputed play that wound up with Gardenhire getting tossed and the Tigers rallied for six runs in the sixth inning to beat the Twins 11-6 on Wednesday night
"We've had a few comebacks, and that's been pretty important for us," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Our bullpen has done a great job for us, but we can't keep expecting to do this. We've got to get our starters deeper into games."
The Twins took an early 6-1 lead and still led by a run in the sixth. With one out and a runner on first, Johnny Damon hit a deep drive and center fielder Denard Span appeared to make a running catch.
Span, however, lost the ball after taking two steps in the left-center field alley. After a lengthy discussion, the umpires ruled Span hadn't held the ball long enough for an out, and Gardenhire was ejected for arguing the call.
"The replay showed he caught the ball, took three steps and dropped it when he went to take it out of his glove to throw it. That's all there is to that," Gardenhire said.
Detroit quickly took advantage of the two-base error. Pat Neshek relieved Ron Mahay and walked Magglio Ordonez, loading the bases. Miguel Cabrera was hit by a pitch that forced home the tying run, Boesch and Brandon Inge hit two-run doubles and Ryan Raburn added an RBI double.
"We fell behind tonight, but we felt like it was just a matter of time before we got the bats going," Inge said. "We were staying aggressive, and it worked out well for us in the end."
Damon was the only batter that Mahay (0-1) faced. Brad Thomas (1-0) picked up his first major league win in relief, nine years after making his debut with the Twins.
"It's been a lot of hard work," said Thomas, who came into the game with a 8.44 ERA. "It's been embarrassing what happened before today, but I did my job today. You have to keep this team close, because we hit so well that there's always a chance."
"This is a tough one, because when it was 6-1, it looked like we had the game under control," Gardenhire said. "Everything just went the wrong way after that."
Detroit's rally started against Minnesota starter Scott Baker in the fourth when Inge led off with a homer. Damon added an RBI groundout later in the inning and Ordonez followed with a two-run single.
"I was flying open all night, and I just couldn't make the adjustment I needed to get the ball down," Baker said. "I had been able to make pitches when I needed them, but it caught up with me in that inning."
Andre David was the last Minnesota player to homer in his first at-bat, doing it on June 29, 1984, in Detroit. ... As usual at Comerica Park, the fans threw Hughes' home run ball back on to the field. Ordonez tossed it to a kid in the crowd before realizing the Twins were asking for it. Luckily for Hughes, the young fan immediately returned the ball to Ordonez upon his request. "That was a little crazy -- people were throwing the ball back and forth, but we ended up with it," Gardenhire said. ... Ordonez's three hits gave him 1,999 for his career. ... Twins first baseman Justin Morneau sat out, one day after leaving Tuesday's win with a stiff back. Gardenhire said he doesn't expect Morneau to play in Thursday afternoon's series finale but hopes to have him back for a weekend series in Cleveland.