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Tigers 6, Twins 4: Justin Verlander wins 20th with help from bullpen, Delmon Young

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Final - 8.27.2011 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 2 0 0 2 0 2 0 0 6 10 0
Minnesota Twins 0 0 0 0 2 2 0 0 0 4 8 1
WP: Justin Verlander (20 - 5)
SV: Jose Valverde (39)
LP: Carl Pavano (6 - 11)

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BOX

KEY STAT

What else could it be? Justin Verlander reaching the 20 victory mark.

Via MLB.com:

Making his 29th start, Verlander was the first pitcher to record 20 wins before the end of August since Curt Schilling did so in 2002 with the D-backs. Verlander is the fifth pitcher to reach the 20-win mark in August over the past 20 years, joining Roger Clemens (1997), John Smoltz ('96) and Jack McDowell ('93).

The last Tiger to reach 20 wins before September was Mickey Lolich in 1971.

The AL Cy Young favorite is the first Tiger to reach 20 wins since Bill Gullickson in 1991. Now with a 20-5 record on the season, Verlander is also 16-2 in his last 20 starts, and with six starts remaining...well, you do the math.

KEY PLAY

Delmon Young's two out RBI single in the 7th, giving the Tigers a 5-4 lead.

The Twins had tied the game at four in the 6th on Luke Hughes two RBI double. It seemed Velrander's pursuit for win number 20 would have to go on hold until next Friday. But Young's single off of Tiger killer Carl Pavano knocked the Twins' starter out of the game, and make Verlander the pitcher of record should the Tigers win. Miguel Cabrera added an insurance run off of reliever Matt Capps, giving the Tigers and Verlander a needed cushion.

KEY THOUGHTS

Verlander's 20th wasn't pretty, and far from easy.

The Twins entered the game with an obvious game plan. Trying to extend their at-bats. Being the pesky as all Hell, they were successful. Verlander battled, ultimately pitching to one batter in the 7th. It ended his afternoon with 120 pitches in six full innings (his shortest start of the season), allowing four runs on eight hits, three walks and six strike outs.

What was most impressive about the win was Verlander didn't have his best stuff against a team determined to be patient, trying to go deep in the count every single at bat. Yet Verlander still pitched well enough to gain the historic victory.

Verlander's kryptonite was the Twins' bottom of the order. The 7-8-9 hitters combined for five hits, four RBI and a pair of home runs. 7th hitter Luke Hughes and 8th Jason Repko stunningly went deep back-to-back in the bottom of the 5th. How rare of an occurrence was this?

Via STATS:

Tigers Justin Verlander gave up b-to-b HRs to lower half of lineup for first time ever today. Four previous times all to 2-3-4 hitters.

Yes, this was an odd game. And it's odder still

Via CBS Sports' Danny Knobler:

One amazing Verlander stat from his 20th win: It was the first time in his 194-start career that he gave up a 4-run lead.

Like I said. Odd.

Verlander didn't get the win on his own. The bullpen continued with their string of excellent outings. Daniel Schlereth, Joaquin Benoit, and Papa Grande himself, Jose Valverde, combined for three innings of no-hit, no-run relief. Valverde's 1-2-3 9th locked down his 39th consecutive save.

For what it's worth, Jim Leyland backpedaled from his his previous statement regarding Verlander's AL MVP candidacy.

"I want everyone in here to know and please print that I support Justin Verlander for MVP to the hilt," Leyland said. "I want to make that perfectly clear. The question was asked to me if I thought a pitcher should be the MVP and my answer to that is no, I do not. But under the way the system is, I will certainly support Verlander to the hilt as a possible candidate for the MVP."

During the game winning 7th inning rally, Leyland had Ryan Raburn sacrifice bunt. Raburn's OPS since the All-Star break is .884. I'm sorry, but having one of your best slugging outfielders bunt is incredibly dumb.

It worked out, thanks to Young's clutch two out single. But it's ridiculous all the same.

I'm going to say the same thing I said last night. The Tigers have won the Delmon Young trade, and it's not even close.

For those of you worried Thursday's day off "broke" Alex Avila, fret not. The iron man catcher was 2-4, and clubbed a home run in the 2nd.

With the win, the Tigers are 14 games over .500 at 73-59. Both the Indians and White Sox are playing as I write, and are now 7.0 and 7.5 games back.

We should consider ourselves quite lucky to witness what may end up being a once in several generations season for Tigers fans. The Tigers have had some great pitchers over the years (Jack Morris and Mickey Lolich, to name two), but the only pitcher I've ever seen perform at Justin Verlander's level was Denny McClain in 1968 and 1969. McClain won back-to-back Cy Young awards, and was '68 MVP. And Verlander's season is very, very comparable to McClain at his best.

Well done, Justin. Well done, indeed.