The Minnesota Twins had an opportunity to beat the man that might be baseball's best pitcher on Saturday afternoon at Target Field. However, as with so many other things in the 2011 Twins' season, that opportunity faded into disappointment.
Detroit Tigers' right-hander Justin Verlander became baseball's first 20-game winner on Saturday, as the Tigers beat the Twins 6-4. The loss was the seventh in a row for Minnesota, and dropped them a staggering 18 games back in the American League Central division. They are now just 1.5 games ahead of the Kansas City Royals for the division cellar, and only the Royals and Baltimore Orioles. . .who swept the Twins in a four-game series earlier this week. . .have a worse record in the Junior Circuit than Minnesota has.
Detroit got on the board first in this one, as Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila both hit solo home runs off of Twins' starter Carl Pavano in the top of the second inning to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead. They extended that lead in the top of the fifth thanks to an RBI double by Ryan Raburn and an RBI single by Austin Jackson to make their lead 4-0.
The Twins came back in the bottom of the fifth, however, thanks to back-to-back solo home runs by Luke Hughes and. . .I hope you're sitting down. . .Jason Repko. Hughes took Verlander deep to start off the inning, and Repko's follow-up cut the Detroit lead to 4-2. Hughes struck again in the bottom of the sixth, lacing a two-run double to right field off of Verlander to score Danny Valencia and Rene Tosoni and tie the game at four.
Minnesota couldn't keep up the pace, however, and in the top of the seventh the Tigers took the lead back thanks to a single by Delmon Young. . .who looks like a completely different player since leaving Minnesota. . .off of Pavano and a single by Miguel Cabrera off of Matt Capps to make the score 6-4 in favor of the Tigers, and that's how things ended, as the Twins managed just one more hit the rest of the way.
Verlander's victory moves his record to 20-5 on the season, and he is the first pitcher to win 20 games before the month of September since Curt Schilling did so back in 2002. Pavano ended up taking the loss for Minnesota, dropping his record for this very disappointing season to 6-11.
The Twins will attempt to avoid a sweep for the second consecutive series as they host the finale of this three game set on Sunday afternoon at Target Field. The first pitch on Sunday is scheduled for 1:10 PM Central time, and the pitching match-up will feature Brad Penny taking the hill for the Tigers, while Minnesota will counter with left-hander Brian Duensing.