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Game 157: Twins at Tigers

Brian Duensing (5-1, 3.33) vs. Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.41), 7:05 p.m. EST

After the Twins won the first game of today's doubleheader, first place in the AL Central is truly on the line tonight. Another Minnesota win would tie them with the Tigers atop the division.

Brian Duensing hasn't lost in his past seven starts, winning five of them. That includes last week, when he gave up four runs (three earned) and nine hits in 5.2 innings. But the Twins' lineup scored five runs for him, which provided plenty of cushion.

What's interesting about that start, however, is that Duensing started against the White Sox for the third time in that game. They're the only team he's faced more than once. The Tigers will be facing Duensing for the second time tonight. Will familiarity allow them to score some runs off him? Anything would be an improvement, since Duensing shut out Detroit the last time he faced them.

Justin Verlander has bigger paydays in his future, but games like tonight are why he makes the big bucks. The Tigers could really use a win tonight, and he's just the guy to be pitching for them under such circumstances. He allowed two runs in seven innings versus the Indians in his last outing, adding 11 strikeouts.

But in the start before that, the Twins scored five runs against Verlander. That's a bit deceiving, however, as he might have gotten away with allowing just one run until things fell apart once Don Kelly lost a fly ball against the Metrodome roof. With developments like that, Verlander hasn't beaten the Twins this season. In three starts against them, he's 0-2 with a 5.49 ERA.

Gerald Laird is in the lineup once again, despite starting this afternoon's game, as Jim Leyland prefers him to catch Verlander. Plus, he's a right-handed bat against the lefty Duensing.