MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Justin Verlander kept the Minnesota Twins in their place - fourth place, that is.
Verlander threw eight dominant innings, Jhonny Peralta drove in three runs with three hits and the Detroit Tigers beat the Twins for the 10th straight time, 6-2 on Thursday night.
Brennan Boesch hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Peralta - batting fourth, fifth and sixth - were all over Twins starter Carl Pavano (6-7) in the first game of another important four-game series in the four-team AL Central race.
Verlander (13-5) gave up five hits and one run without a walk, striking out nine.
The Tigers moved a half-game ahead of idle Cleveland in the division, while the fourth-place Twins fell six games back.
``We expect to get after him. We've gotten after him pretty good over the years. He's beat us probably more than we've beaten him, but we've had some nice matchups against him,' Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Verlander. ``He's a competitor, a great pitcher. Tonight was his night. He got us. But we've had some good games against him. We've been able to irritate him enough with bunts and slapping the ball around and bloops and getting after him. It's not like we're beaten before we start the game, but we know you have to be pretty good to beat the guy. The guy's throwing as well as he's ever thrown.'
Verlander raised his record to 8-7 against the Twins, with a 3.55 ERA in 19 starts.
``Where we're in the division, every game is important,' Verlander said. ``It's good to get Game One. Hopefully we get three more and get out of here.'
The Tigers teed off on Pavano, who lost only once in his previous eight starts but wasn't fooling anyone this time. He managed to get Martinez to ground into a double play in the second inning after a leadoff single by Cabrera, and he ended the fourth with a slick stop to start a double play on Carlos Guillen's bases-loaded comebacker. Pavano contorted his face as he walked off, flashing a bewildered look suggesting he wasn't sure how he snagged the ball.
He wasn't as fortunate in the fifth or the sixth.
Boesch clobbered a 2-1 pitch with two outs that soared into the seats in left-center field for a 3-0 lead. In the next inning, the hard-hitting heart of the order appeared again. Cabrera doubled. Martinez singled. Then Peralta drove in Cabrera with a double, and Guillen added a sacrifice fly for a five-run lead. Pavano finished the inning, but he allowed nine hits, five runs, one walk and one hit batter while striking out two.
``My focus is never on the opposing pitcher. I've just got to make better pitches,' said Pavano, lamenting the location of several of his offerings, particularly the over-the-middle changeup to Boesch.
Joe Mauer played first base for the third straight game, allowing Drew Butera to catch Pavano and continue their strong chemistry as battery mates. Mauer made a highlight-reel diving stop of Guillen's sharp grounder down the line and got up quickly for an easy unassisted out. He kept up his surge in the batter's box, too, with two more hits. He's batting .550 (11 for 20) as a first baseman.
Michael Cuddyer was the only other one who made much of a sound with his bat against Verlander, leading off the second inning with a standup triple. But the right-hander reared back and struck out Jim Thome on a 98 mph fastball and Danny Valencia on a checked swing before retiring Delmon Young on a groundout.
``He did what strikeout guys do: He made pitches and pumped up the volume and pretty much shut us down,' Gardenhire said.
Alexi Casilla, Mauer and Cuddyer hit three consecutive two-out singles in the sixth, with Cuddyer spoiling the shutout, but Thome came up and struck out for a third time, freezing on an 82 mph curveball. The 40-year-old slugger has hit seven of his 596 career home runs against Verlander, but he was overmatched in this game against the American League's strikeout leader.
Verlander threw 126 pitches, hardly a high number for the 28-year-old iron-armed ace. He has thrown 101 pitches in each of his 22 starts this season.
Notes: Mauer is a .375 hitter in 48 career at_bats against Verlander.... Pavano will visit children Friday at Mary's Place, a transitional housing shelter just down the street from Target Field, and give them gift bags containing shoes, headphones, tickets, food vouchers, sports equipment and other items. ... This the longest winning streak for the Tigers ever against the Twins.
The Associated Press News Service
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