When the Detroit Tigers need their ace the most, Justin Verlander continues to deliver.
He's usually come through against the Minnesota Twins.
The right-hander looks to win his fourth straight start while trying to help the AL Central-leading Tigers avoid a fourth consecutive loss to the Minnesota Twins on Saturday at Target Field.
Omar Infante hit a two-run homer and Miguel Cabrera added two hits for Detroit (84-73), but Minnesota's Ryan Doumit had four RBIs to help the Twins to a 4-2 victory over the Tigers on Friday. The loss leaves the Tigers one game ahead of second-place Chicago in the division.
"Nothing comes easy for us, it seems like," catcher Gerald Laird said. "We knew the White Sox weren't going to go away."
Minnesota (66-91) continues to do its best to spoil Detroit's postseason chances. The Twins swept a doubleheader Sunday at Comerica Park and improved to 8-8 against the Tigers this year with Friday's win.
"Unfortunately for us watching the scoreboard won't help us," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We can go out there and be a part of one with the other team."
The Twins, however, should expect a difficult challenge against Verlander (16-8, 2.72 ERA), who has given up two runs and struck out 19 over 21 innings to win his last three starts during this stretch run. He allowed those runs and fanned eight in eight innings of a 6-2 win over Kansas City on Monday.
"He just threw strike after strike after strike. There's not much you can do when he's throwing like that,' Royals manager Ned Yost said of Verlander, who overcame a mild left shoulder injury he suffered during the fifth inning. "You just need to get lucky when he's going that well.'
Verlander has been more than lucky while going 6-0 with a 2.12 ERA in seven starts against the Twins since losing to them April 27, 2010. In his only previous start versus Minnesota in 2012, Verlander served up a homer to Chris Parmelee and three other hits while striking out seven in a complete-game 5-1 victory July 4.
He is 2-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three starts at Target Field.
Leading the AL with a .327 average, 133 RBIs and in the mix with 42 homers, Cabrera continues to vie for the Triple Crown. He's batted .406 with 23 RBIs in 16 games versus Minnesota this season.
Despite going 0 for 2 with two walks Friday, Twins star Joe Mauer is right on Cabrera's heels with a .322 average.
Doumit, meanwhile, hit a two-run homer in the seventh and a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth. He's batting .389 (7 for 18) with two homes and seven RBIs against the Tigers at Target Field in 2012.
Scheduled Minnesota starter P.J. Walters (2-4, 5.88) is 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA in three starts versus Detroit this season. The right-hander allowed one run in six innings of the 2-1, 10-inning victory Sunday that completed the doubleheader sweep at Comerica.
Though Walters is 0-3 with a 7.64 ERA over his last eight starts, which included almost three months on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation, he feels like progress was made after Sunday's outing.
"I guess it's just kind of getting back into the swing of things," Walters told the Twins' official website. "Obviously, I wish it came a little quicker than it has."
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