MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Justin Verlander gave up a triple to start the second inning of a scoreless game, a tricky situation for any pitcher to escape. Except, well, for him.
Verlander threw eight dominant innings, Jhonny Peralta drove in three runs with three hits and the Detroit Tigers beat Minnesota 6-2 on Thursday night for their 10th straight win over the Twins.
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.
But the offensive production from the middle of the lineup was merely piling on, the way Verlander (13-5) was whipping fastballs and snapping sliders across the plate.
He gave up five hits and one run without a walk, striking out nine.
“Five or six runs for Verlander,” Boesch said, “is like 10 or 12 for anyone else.”
The Tigers moved a half-game ahead of idle Cleveland in the division while the fourth-place Twins fell six games back.
“Where we’re at 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 changeup left over the middle 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.
He lamented the location of the pitch to Boesch, but in the end that wouldn’t have mattered the way Verlander, who had actually lost two of his last three starts, was working.
“He made it look really easy,” Pavano said.
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 that 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.
“Not many guys can come out of a `man on third, no outs’ situation with nothing,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, adding: “That’s why he’s special.”
Verlander acknowledged that was a “shot in the arm” for his teammates.
“He did what strikeout guys do: He made pitches and pumped up the volume and pretty much shut us down,” Twins manager Ron 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.
Notes: Mauer is a .375 hitter in 48 career at-bats against Verlander, who threw 126 pitches. … The Cabrera-Martinez-Peralta trio isn’t the only part of the Tigers lineup on a tear this summer. Boesch has 10 homers, 12 doubles, 23 RBIs and a .350 average in his last 40 games. … Guillen had an RBI but was hitless against Pavano, falling to 0 for 19 in his career against the right-hander. Leyland said before the game he wanted to give him a chance since he’s been swinging so well (7 for 17) since returning five days ago from a left knee injury that kept him out of major league action for the last 11 months.
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