The American League Central-leading Minnesota Twins will continue their homestand tonight and try for a second sweep of the Detroit Tigers this season in the finale of a three-game series at Target Field.
The Twins have won five of their last six games and kicked off their nine-game residency by taking the first two portions of this set with the division-rival Tigers. They won Tuesday’s series opener by a 4-3 score, then squeezed out a 2-1 win in 10 innings last night on Danny Valencia’s game-winning single that plated Michael Cuddyer.
Cuddyer singled off of Tigers reliever Ryan Perry to start the inning, stole second after Delmon Young went down swinging and crossed the plate on Valencia’s ensuing base hit to center.
“Great feeling. My first walk-off hit in pro baseball. It was nice to come in a situation like this,” said Valencia. “We are in a pennant race. There are some teams that are right behind us.”
Minnesota remained four games ahead of Chicago for the AL Central lead. The White Sox defeated Cleveland yesterday afternoon. Jose Morales was credited with an RBI in the fifth inning to get the Twins on the board, while starter Francisco Liriano struck out seven over seven shutout innings. Jon Rauch got the win for tossing a scoreless 10th inning. Liriano entered the game with a 6-0 mark and a 2.47 ERA since the All-Star break.
Scott Baker has an unbeaten streak of his own and will take the ball Thursday for the Twins. Baker is 5-0 with a 3.02 earned run average in his last seven starts — all Minnesota wins — and pitched in last Friday’s 6-3 victory at Seattle. He allowed two runs in 6 2/3 innings and struck out four, improving to 12-9 overall in 26 starts this season.
The right-hander is 1-0 in two starts against Detroit this season and 6-4 with a 4.55 ERA in 19 career starts in this series. Baker will also try to improve on his 8-3 record in 13 home starts tonight.
Detroit is fading from the playoff picture and sits 12 games behind Minnesota in the Central standings and 17 games off the wild card lead. It is 2-4 so far on a 10-game road trip after Perry surrendered the game-winning hit in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Max Scherzer pitched nine innings and fanned nine batters in the no-decision for the Tigers, who were swept in three games by Minnesota on the road from May 3-5 at Target Field.
“It was great pitching performance by both guys. We had opportunities but we had a tough time with that,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland.
Jhonny Peralta had two hits and drove in the only run for Detroit in the eighth inning. Austin Jackson also finished with a pair of hits.
The Tigers will send All-Star pitcher Justin Verlander to the mound tonight with hopes of him salvaging this series. Verlander is 2-1 in his last three decisions, spanning four starts, and did not record a decision his last time out on Friday in Toronto.
Verlander struck out eight, allowed two runs and walked two batters over eight innings. He remained at 14-8 this season in 27 starts to go along with a 3.58 ERA. The right-hander is 1-1 in two starts against Minnesota this season and 6-7 with a 4.00 ERA over 16 starts for his career in this matchup.
Minnesota is 9-5 against Detroit this season, with a 7-1 mark as the host.