DETROIT (AP) — Prince Fielder put Detroit ahead with a three-run homer, and as if on cue, Max Scherzer settled into a groove.
That’s been the formula for these Tigers — starting pitching and power.
Fielder’s towering drive in the sixth inning lifted Detroit to its fourth straight victory Monday night, 4-3 over Minnesota.
The Twins led 3-1 before the slugging first baseman’s homer, and Scherzer struck out the last four men he faced in the seventh and eighth to help preserve the win.
“I was able to pitch ahead in the count, and I thought my fastball-changeup combination really allowed me to get those extra strikeouts at the end,” Scherzer said.
“To keep them from doing any more damage when we got the lead — I thought my two-strike changeup was the pitch that allowed me to get a few extra strikeouts. That’s my pitch.”
Andy Dirks started the go-ahead rally with a bunt single and Miguel Cabrera walked. Fielder hit the first pitch over the wall in left-center for an opposite-field homer. That part of the fence is about 405 feet from home plate.
Scherzer (3-0) allowed three runs and six hits in 7 1-3 innings. He struck out 10 without a walk. Drew Smyly finished the eighth and got the first two outs of the ninth, and Joaquin Benoit finished for his second save.
Mike Pelfrey (2-3) allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings.
Dirks also homered for the Tigers, and Josh Willingham went deep for Minnesota.
Pelfrey, who signed with the Twins in the offseason, entered the night with a 7.94 ERA, but for the first five innings he quieted a Detroit lineup that had just scored 25 runs in a three-game sweep of Atlanta.
Then in a blink, the lead was gone when Fielder connected for his sixth homer of the year.
“It’s better than what I’ve done before tonight, but it wasn’t good enough,” Pelfrey said. “I made a horrible pitch and Prince made me pay for it. I was looking for a groundball after I walked Cabrera, and I left a sinker high and in the middle of the plate. He’s pretty strong, and he drove it, so I turned around and just hoped it might hit the fence.”
The previous night it was Cabrera who hit a three-run homer to break the game open against Atlanta. This time it was Fielder.
“Those two guys, they’re well-respected in the league,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Both liable to strike at any time, and Prince struck at the right time for us.”
The free-swinging Braves struck out 39 times in those three games against the Tigers, but Minnesota has done a good job making contact all season. The Twins entered the day with only 150 strikeouts, the second-fewest in baseball, and they pecked away early against Scherzer.
Willingham opened the scoring in the first with a solo shot, his fifth homer of the year. Two singles and a wild pitch put men on second and third in the second, and an RBI groundout by Aaron Hicks made it 2-0.
Dirks homered in the third, but the Twins answered immediately the next inning with Oswaldo Arcia’s run-scoring double.
But Pelfrey couldn’t hold the Tigers down for long enough, and once Detroit took the lead, the Twins didn’t come close to scoring on Scherzer. He struck out the side in the seventh and fanned Brian Dozier to start the eighth before departing. Scherzer threw 114 pitches.
“He’s unbelievable. He’s got great stuff, the ball is moving all over the place, and he’s throwing one fastball 91 and the next one at 96,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s throwing a great changeup and a great slider, and he’s got different speeds for all of them. He’s one of those guys that you know you have to get to early, because once he gets into a rhythm, he just gets stronger and better.”
Smyly and Benoit finished. Closer Jose Valverde was given the night off after pitching the previous two days.
NOTES: A comebacker by Pedro Florimon appeared to hit Scherzer in the back in the second, but the Detroit right-hander was able to recover and make the play. … Cabrera’s hitting streak ended at 12 games. … Detroit ace Justin Verlander (2-2) takes the mound Tuesday night against Minnesota’s Vance Worley (0-3).
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