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Twins fall to Tigers in Kohl Stewart's debut

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Kohl Stewart (53) pitches in the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports1 / 2
Detroit Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario (46) slides in safe at home ahead of the throw to Minnesota Twins catcher Mitch Garver (23) in the fifth inning of their game Sunday, Aug. 12, at Comerica Park in Detroit. Rick Osentoski / USA TODAY Sports2 / 2

DETROIT -- After waiting more than five years for this moment, Kohl Stewart was determined to enjoy his big-league debut.

“I was really nervous leading up to the game, but when the game started I was fine,” Stewart said after the Twins’ 4-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Sunday, Aug. 12. “It was honestly a blast. I mean, you’re only going to do that once for the first time. I was having a lot of fun.”

Through four innings, Stewart was cruising.

Pounding the strike zone with his 93-mph sinker and keeping the Detroit Tigers honest with just enough off-speed offerings, Stewart had a one-run lead and had thrown just 47 pitches while allowing just three balls to leave the infield.

Then came the fifth and a slow-drip disappointment that included a fielding miscue by Ehire Adrianza at third.

It started with one out on back-to-back singles by the bottom two hitters in the lineup. Jeimer Candelario followed with a tying single to right, and it took Jose Iglesias 10 pitches to send a chopper toward third.

Had it been hit with a little more pace, Adrianza might have been able to complete the third double play of Stewart’s day. At the very least, Adrianza seemed to have an easy force play at third.

Instead, the utility man threw across the diamond after hesitating ever so slightly. That allowed Iglesias to reach on an infield single that loaded the bases.

“That stuff is going to happen,” Stewart said. “Their guy ran hard down the line and he beat it out. Obviously not everything is going to go your way. It’s my job after that kind of stuff happens to get a swing and miss or punch a guy out and keep those guys on base.”

When Niko Goodrum, the former Twins farmhand who teamed with Stewart at three different levels in the system, forced in the go-ahead run with a five-pitch walk, the debut was over. Victor Martinez added a third run to Stewart’s ledger with a sacrifice fly off reliever Taylor Rogers.

Stewart, the fourth overall pick in the 2013 draft, was pitching in front of a vocal contingent of 30-plus friends and family from his hometown of Houston. He coached them up in advance, asking them to keep their composure.

“Don’t be too loud, don’t be too quiet,” he told them.

And then the game started, and the Stewart crew was living and dying with every pitch from the stands.

“After I threw that first strike, it was like you could hear them a mile away,” he said. “It’s awesome. I’m so lucky to have a family like that who would drop on a dime and come see me. They can do whatever they want. They’re enjoying it just like I am. “

Stewart, 23, became the 11th different starting pitcher used by the Twins this season and the third to make his debut in that role. He outdid Zack Littell’s three-plus innings (six earned runs and four walks) in a 6-3 home loss to the Chicago White Sox on June 5, but he couldn’t match Fernando Romero’s 5 2/3 scoreless innings in a 4-0 home win over the Toronto Blue Jays on May 2.

Finishing with eight hits allowed, a walk and a strikeout in 4 1/3 innings, Stewart was lifted at 74 pitches (45 strikes). He started just 10 of 21 batters with strike one and induced just two swinging strikes out of 36 total swings: a 1-1 sinker to Iglesias in the first and a 1-0 sinker to rookie catcher Grayson Greiner in the fifth.

The Twins have now used 30 pitchers in 2018, including a pair of position players (Ryan LaMarre and Mitch Garver), after using a club-record 36 last season.

Stewart was staked to a quick lead in the second on Mitch Garver’s triple to center and Johnny Field’s sacrifice fly. From there, however, they went silent. Lefty Matthew Boyd set down 13 straight during one stretch before issuing a full-count walk to Logan Forsythe in the sixth.

Max Kepler added a solo homer in the eighth, his 15th, but the Tigers scored an insurance run on Ronny Rodriguez’s RBI double in the home eighth against lefty Gabriel Moya. Just one of eight inherited runners had scored off Moya coming in, but Goodrum followed a leadoff walk with a two-out stolen base to get into scoring position.

The Twins fell to 4-5 against the Tigers and completed a 2-5 road trip through two divisional cities.