(Sports Network) - The Detroit Tigers have taken over first place in the ultra-competitive AL Central and will close out a three-game set with the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park this afternoon.
Detroit maintained its half-game edge on second-place Chicago in the division standings with Saturday's verdict against the struggling Twins. Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez and Johnny Damon each hit home runs to support six solid innings from Jeremy Bonderman in the Tigers' 7-4 win in the middle meeting of this three-game set.
Cabrera extended his hitting streak to a career-high 18 games and Alex Vila added another home run for the Tigers, who have won five straight.
Bonderman (5-6) grabbed the win after allowing three runs on four hits and a walk while fanning a pair for Detroit, which has won 17 of its last 19 games at home. Jose Valverde retired the side in order in the ninth to record his 19th save of the season.
"We played well. The guys battled and came up with big hits and made some great plays behind me," Bonderman said about the game. "It's a great team win. We'll come in [Sunday] and try to take the last one."
Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn (7-7) was roughed up to the tune of seven runs on seven hits, including four home runs, in four-plus innings for the slumping Twins, who have dropped four in a row and six of seven and are now four games back of the Tigers.
Twins first baseman Justin Morneau missed his third straight game Saturday with concussion-like symptoms and will not make the trip to Anaheim for the All-Star Game. A head and concussion specialist in Detroit examined Morneau on Saturday and recommended rest. He will be re-evaluated in Minnesota over the All-Star break.
One of the most pleasant surprises during the first half of this season has been the pitching of Twins veteran Carl Pavano, who is 9-6 with a 3.58 ERA. The righty has only walked 17 batters through 118 innings, and the pinpoint control has been key to his success.
Pavano wasn't effective in his most recent start, however, as he was roughed up for six earned runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings against Toronto and did not figure in the decision.
He lost his only previous start against Detroit this season despite surrendering just two earned runs in eight innings. Pavano is 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA in his career against the Tigers.
Detroit is slated to send Andrew Oliver to the hill today, and he is in search of his first win in the majors. Oliver, who has made three starts to date, is 0-2 with a 5.93 ERA and struggled mightily Monday against Baltimore, allowing five earned runs in just 1 2/3 innings of action in front of a disappointed home crowd.
Oliver's only previous start against Minnesota came on June 30 and resulted in defeat. Still, he pitched well in that game, allowing only two earned runs in six innings.
Minnesota has won six of its 11 matchups with the Tigers this season.