The Detroit Tigers backed Justin Verlander's seven strong innings with three home runs, beating the Minnesota Twins 6-1. The Tigers have won five in a row and and six of seven since returning from their West Coast trip.
With the win, Verlander (3-2) lowered his ERA to 1.83, allowing just one run while striking out eight. Four Tigers pitchers would combine for 10 strikeouts, the fifth straight game of 10 or more for the Tigers' staff, tying an American League record.
Nearly all of Tigers' offense was supplied via three home runs. Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run shot in the first, Alex Avila a solo homer in the second, and Prince Fielder went deep with a two-run home run in the fifth. Torii Hunter drove in the other Tigers run with an RBI ground out.
Vance Worley (0-4) was dinged for ten hits and six runs in 4 2/3 innings, taking the loss for the Twins. Former Tigers farmhand Wilkin Ramirez drove in the lone run for the Twins with a second-inning double.
Verlander needed only eight pitches to set down the Twins in order in the first inning, striking out one. Verlander would retire the Twins in order just one more time over the following six innings.
The Tigers' would give their ace a lead a mere three batters into the bottom of the first inning. The number two and three hitters in both the the Tigers' batting order, and in the American League batting stats, did the damage.
Hunter, second in the AL with a .375 average, doubled down the left-field line with one out. Cabrera, third in the league at .367, did what he does better than anyone in the game -- hit with power to the opposite field.
Cabrera lined Worley's 0-1 fastball over the 365' mark in right, his fourth home run of the season giving the Tigers a quick 2-0 lead. (MLB.com video)
The Twins made Verlander work hard in the second. He needed 22 pitches to get the first out after walking Justin Morneau, and Chris Parmelee came through with a Twins Hit, a ground single through the left side.
Verlander got the next two Twins, but Ramirez ripped a hanging breaking ball into the gap in left center for a two-out RBI double.
Verlander would strike out Pedro Florimon on the 33rd pitch of the inning to finally quell the Twins' threat, the Tigers' lead cut to 2-1.
One out into the bottom half of the second, Alex Avila got the run Verlander allowed right back. Avila went to the opposite field, sending a big fly off the roof of the bullpen in left, his third homer of the season pushing the Tigers lead to 3-1.
Despite his inability to keep Twins off the bases, Verlander would hold the Twins scoreless over the next couple of innings. Worley countered by holding the Tigers at bay after Avila's second-inning jack.
Verlander had his first 1-2-3 inning in the fifth, along with his seventh strikeout.
The Tigers manufactured a run off Worley in the fifth, extending their lead. They would extend it further with one swing of a middle-of-the-order bat.
Omar Infante led off with a single, racing to third on Jackson's single. Infante scored on Hunter's ground out to shortstop, the Tigers up 4-1.
After Jackson was thrown out at third trying to advance on Cabrera's bouncer to short, Fielder more or less said, "To Hell with the small ball!"
We got to see Fielder's patented bat flip after he outright smoked a Worley 1-0 breaking ball, sending a line drive over the wall in right. The no-doubter was Fielder's seventh home run of the season (and the Tigers' third of the game), giving the Tigers an insurmountable 6-1 lead.
The Tigers would threaten to increase their lead, but Martinez (who had doubled) was thrown out at the plate on Dirks' single to right to end the inning.
The Twins would continue to nickel and dime Verlander, getting runners on base the next two innings, but unable to convert.
Top of the sixth, Parmelee was stranded after reaching second base with two out, Verlander passing the 100-pitch mark as Trevor Plouffe ended the inning by grounding out.
Top of seven, Verlander allowed a one-out single to Ramirez, only to strike out Pedro Florimon (K number eight) and get Eduardo Escobar on a weak ground ball to Fielder.
With that out, Verlander received the "Handshake of Doom" from Jim Leyland, his night over after seven innings. Drew Smyly would take the mound in his stead to start the eighth.
Once again, the Twins threatened. Once again, the Twins could not convert. Willingham walked, Morneau singled him to second. But Smyly would be the recipient of a pitcher's BFF, the double play. Parmelee grounded into a 4-6-3 twin killing to end the inning.
The Tigers would threaten, but ...wait for it ... did not score in the eighth, loading the bases on two singles and a base on balls. But Infante flew out against the Twins' third pitcher of the night, Ryan Pressly, to end the threat.
Al Alburquerque started the ninth for the Tigers, and struggled with his command. He would walk Plouffe, balk him to second, and walk Ramirez with one down.
The inning getting a little too uncomfortable despite the five-run lead, Leyland made the call for Joaquin Benoit out of the bullpen.
Benoit would end the game in style, striking out pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit (number ten on the night, the Tigers with double figure K's for the fifth consecutive game), and inducing Escobar to ground out to Infante.
Winners of five straight, the Tigers raise their record to a season-high five games over .500 at 15-10. They hold on to first place in the Central by a game (could be 1 1/2 at night's end) over the Kansas City Royals.
The Twins have lost two straight and four of six, their record dropping under .500 at 11-12. The Twins remain in third place in the Central, three games back of the Tigers.
The second month of the season starts Wednesday as the Tigers and Twins play the finale of the three-game series. Lefty Scott Diamond (1-2) looks to salvage a win in the series for the Twins, facing the Tigers' Anibal Sanchez (3-1), making his first start since his 17-strikeout masterpiece against the Braves last Friday night.
First pitch at Comerica Park is 1:08 PM.