Verlander, Tigers cool off Twins, 6-2; Kubel activated
By Dave Campbell, AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Verlander threw eight dominant innings, Jhonny Peralta drove in three runs with three hits and the Detroit Tigers beat Minnesota 6-2 on Thursday 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.
Verlander (13-5) gave up five hits and one run without a walk, striking out nine.
The Tigers moved a half-game ahead of idle Cleveland in the division, while the fourth-place Twins fell six games back.
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 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 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 Carlos 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.
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.
Verlander lost two of his last three starts, but he got back in a groove at the right time.
Michael Cuddyer was the only other one who made much of a sound with his bat against Verlander, leading off the second inning with a 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.
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.
Verlander threw 126 pitches, hardly a high number for the 28-year-old iron-armed ace. He has thrown 101 pitches in each of his 22 starts this season.
NOTES: Mauer is a .375 hitter in 48 career at-bats against Verlander. ... 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. Tigers manager Jim 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. ... Pavano will visit children Friday at Mary's Place, a transitional housing shelter just down the street from Target Field, and give them gift bags containing shoes, headphones, tickets, food vouchers, sports equipment and other items.
Kubel activated from disabled list, likely will play today for Twins
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The Minnesota Twins are about to take another step toward full strength, with outfielder/designated hitter Jason Kubel finally on his way back seven weeks after spraining his left foot.
Kubel was reinstated from his rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Rochester and activated from the disabled list following Thursday night's 6-2 loss to Detroit. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Kubel would likely play Friday against the Tigers.
Kubel was hitting .310 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 200 at-bats when he was hurt. He'll primarily be the DH, sharing time with Jim Thome, but is also capable of playing left field, right field and possibly first base. Gardenhire called Kubel on Wednesday night, prepared to tell him the team wanted to give him a few more games with the farm club. But Kubel convinced his manager to let him come back.
"I wanted to make sure he was ready," Gardenhire said. "He said, 'Gardy, I feel good. I'm seeing it really good.'"
Left-handed pitcher Scott Diamond, a fill-in starter for Scott Baker during Monday's doubleheader defeat by the Cleveland Indians, was optioned to Rochester. Right-hander Kevin Slowey, recovering from an abdominal muscle injury, was also reinstated from his rehab assignment and optioned to Rochester.
The Twins are still missing center fielder Denard Span (concussion symptoms) and first baseman Justin Morneau (neck surgery) from their optimal lineup, but Span is getting closer to a return. He played seven innings for Rochester on Wednesday without problems. Head athletic trainer Rick McWane said Span still isn't ready to play a nine-inning game.
With Ben Revere emerging as a reliable regular since Span went out, the Twins will have a playing-time crunch in the outfield when Kubel -- and then Span -- comes back. Gardenhire didn't sound concerned.
"I'll take my chances. I'll find a way to get him in," he said.
As for the manager, he was feeling better after leaving another game early Wednesday to see a doctor. He went to a lung specialist this time to make sure the viral infection he's been bothered by for weeks wasn't worse than that.
"A few additions to the medicine cabinet," Gardenhire said. "Going to knock it out with drugs."
Twins chief executive officer and primary owner Jim Pohlad even advised Gardenhire to rest at home for a few days, but he has been determined to at least be at the ballpark even if he's been relatively inactive while recovering from the illness.
"I'd rather be around here and write the lineups and everything," he said.