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Updated: July 21st, 2011 10:07pm
Twins Daily: Tigers dominate for 10th straight victory against Twins

Twins Daily: Tigers dominate for 10th straight victory against Twins

by Nate Sandell
1500ESPN.com
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Another Cy-Young-worthy outing by Justin Verlander propelled the Detroit Tigers to a 6-2 win over the Minnesota Twins Thursday in the opening game of an important four-game series. The loss delayed the Twins' resurgence towards the top of AL Central, at least for the moment, dropping them to six games back of the Tigers.

The skinny

If the Twins want to keep their postseason aspirations alive, they will have to find a winning solution against the Tigers.

Led by an eight-inning, one-run outing by Verlander, the Tigers notched their 10th straight victory -- sixth this season -- against the Twins.

Starter Carl Pavano couldn't find a rhythm, surrendering five runs and nine hits in six innings. Back-to-back two run innings by the Tigers ultimately doomed Pavano, capped by Brennan Boesch's two-run homer in the fifth.

"As the starting pitcher, you make quality pitches you get these guys out and I didn't do that today," Pavano said.

The Twins as they were fanned nine times by Verlander and managed just five hits. Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer combined for four hits, but failure to capitalize on several key scoring chances didn't help matters for the Twins.

"The times we did get a couple opportunities he did what strikeout guys do, and he made pitches and pumped it up -- pumped up the volume," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He shut us down, so it's pretty much his night tonight."

Turning point

Leading off the second inning, Cuddyer ripped an 84-mph slider into right field for a triple, suddenly giving the Twins a chance to get to Verlander early.

But Verlander squashed those hopes quickly. Using seven consecutive fastballs, he struck out Jim Thome for the first of three times on the night.

The next batter, Danny Valencia, was called out by home plate umpire Adrian Johnson on a check-swing after chasing a fourth-pitch curve ball well out of the zone for another strikeout. Delmon Young followed by coaxing the count to 2-1 before grounding out to second base.

"I felt pretty deflated," Valencia said. "I mean, I'm sure everybody else felt deflated. I know I felt I let the team down. You've got to get the run in, simple as that, it's our job. And we didn't do it."

Regarding the check-swing, which replays showed to be borderline, Valencia said, "I did want an appeal. That's what he's there for. Even if I did go, it's so close that they should be asking the guy at first base. That's what he's there for. There's no way he could see that. That's how I felt about it."

From there, Verlander locked in, while the Tigers began to rack up hits against Pavano.

"Being able to get out of that inning unscathed kind of turned it around and gave our guys a little shot in the arm," Verlander said. 

The Twins botched another potential rally in the sixth inning, but it was the blown opportunity in the second that could have changed the game's momentum. 

Numbers game

0-6: Twins' record against the Tigers this season.

34: Career triples for Michael Cuddyer after his second inning three-bagger off the wall in right field, tying him with John Castino for fifth most in Twins history. It was Cuddyer's first triple since Sept. 30, 2010.

.047: Ben Revere's batting average in his last 21 at-bats (1-for-21).

5: Starts for Mauer at first base, where he played on Thursday. The Twins may be on to something -- he is hitting .550 in 20 at-bats when playing first.

Overheard

"I don't put much stock into that ... We just hope we continue to play well against them because they don't make mistakes. That is why they are a constant. They are there every single year. No matter how they start or how they finish, they are there every year. That's just the way it is. It'll be the same this year."

-- Tigers manager Jim Leyland, addressing his team's recent success against the Twins.

"Him and (Tim) Lincecum are up there. Lincecum was pretty solid when I faced him in San Fran. I'd say those two are pretty close. Those two are really close. They hit their spots with all speeds so good, and they've got high velocity."

-- Revere, when asked to rank the most difficult pitchers he's faced so far in his career.

Health report

• Gardenhire was back at the ballpark on Thursday after leaving early on Wednesday to visit with a doctor. "Just a lung doctor, just a specialist, because we've got the stuff in my chest and viral infection and the sinus," Gardenhire said. "A few additions to the medicine cabinets. We'll knock it out with drugs, that's all we can do." Gardenhire said team owner Jim Pohlad recommended he stay home from the ballpark to rest up, "but I have a hard time doing that." Gardenhire added, "They tried to say they don't want me going on the road if I continue to have this, but I don't know about that either. They said the heat in Texas may get to me."
• OF Jason Kubel (sprained left foot) completed his rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Thursday and will likely be back in the Twins' lineup on Friday night.

• OF Denard Span (concussion) played seven innings in center field for Rochester on Thursday, going 0-for-3 at the plate. "He's reporting no concussion symptoms," head athletic trainer Rick McWane said, "so we'll just build up his innings gradually." Span will travel to Indianapolis with the Red Wings on Friday. "He's going to have to play nine innings for several days in a row, just to show he can do it," McWane said, adding, "Concussion-wise ... he says he feels fine."

• RHP Scott Baker (right elbow discomfort) is on track to make his return from the disabled list on Saturday.

• RHP Kevin Slowey (abdominal strain) reported no problems the day after throwing seven innings and 94 pitches for Rochester on Wednesday.

On deck

Even including his full-game shutout on July 4th, Brian Duensing hasn't been dominant this season, but he has managed to get the job done. Duensing (7-7, 4.14) has allowed three runs or less in his last six starts, with an ERA of 2.69 in that span. The Twins send him to the mound Friday (7:10 p.m. 1500 ESPN) for the second game of their four game set against the Tigers -- a team Duensing has had mild struggles against in the past (career - 3.94 ERA, 1.53 WHIP).

Max Scherzer (10-5, 4.53) will go against Duensing for the Tigers. The 26-year-old right-hander has been shelled for 24 earned runs in his four career starts against the Twins, including a seven run outing earlier this season.

Coming up

• Saturday: vs. Detroit, 3:10 p.m. RHP Scott Baker (7-5,3.01) vs. RHP Brad Penny (7-6, 4.47 ERA)
• Sunday: vs. Detroit, 1:10 p.m. LHP Francisco Liriano (6-7, 4.56) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (9-6, 4.76)
• Monday: vs. Texas, 7:10. RHP Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.87) vs. LHP Derek Holland (8-4, 4.65)

Nate Sandell is a contributor to 1500ESPN.com.
Email Nate | @nsandell
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