Detroit (86-55) at Minnesota (80-59)

Fair Currently: Minneapolis, MN
Temp: 61° F
  • Game info: 8:10 pm EDT Fri Sep 8, 2006
  • TV: FSD, FSNO
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Heading into their most important series of the year, the Detroit Tigers made a surprising move by releasing veteran DH Dmitri Young in favor of Marcus Thames.

After homering in his first game as the permanent starter at designated hitter, Thames will try to help the Tigers increase their AL Central lead when they meet the Minnesota Twins on Friday in the second of a four-game series between the division’s top two teams.

Before an easy 7-2 win Thursday in the series opener, Tigers manager Jim Leyland indicated Thames would likely be the team’s starting DH for the remainder of the season. His 25th homer was one of four hit by the Tigers (86-55).

Thames has been the DH in 35 games this season, but has also started 56 games in the outfield.

Curtis Granderson set the tone Thursday when he homered off Twins rookie Scott Baker to lead off the game. Ivan Rodriguez and Omar Infante also went deep for Detroit, which improved to 10-18 since it was a season-high 40 games over .500 on Aug. 7.

“It’s nice to get a win under your belt, but we’re smart enough to know that this thing is going to go back and forth to the end,” Leyland said. “That’s what a pennant race is all about.”

The Tigers increased their division lead to five games over Minnesota (80-59), which will start rookies Matt Garza and Boof Bonser before ace Johan Santana goes in the series finale on Sunday.

Despite the loss, the Twins maintained their half-game lead for the AL wild card over the White Sox after Chicago was routed 9-1 by Cleveland on Thursday.

“We’re still in good shape,” Minnesota’s Jason Tyner said. “I think we feel all right. We haven’t been playing that great, but luckily neither have the Tigers or White Sox.”

Rookie starter Justin Verlander scattered eight hits over seven innings to earn his 16th win for Detroit.

After spending most of the time in the bullpen since his recall from the minor leagues in June, Wilfredo Ledezma (2-2, 2.38 ERA) will make his third consecutive start for Detroit and first of his career versus the Twins.

Since joining the rotation on Aug. 30 in place of slumping rookie Zach Miner and injured Mike Maroth, the left-hander has given up only four runs and five hits in 11 1-3 innings, but has failed to record a win.

Pitching on only three days’ rest Sunday against the Los Angeles Angels, Ledezma surrendered two runs and three hits with three walks over six innings of a 2-1 loss.

In three career relief appearances against Minnesota, Ledezma has given up a hit, walked one and struck out four in 5 2-3 scoreless innings.

Garza (1-4, 5.88) appears to be most comfortable pitching at home for Minnesota, but still has yet to win in three starts at the Metrodome.

Considered one of the jewels of the Twins’ farm system, Garza was 14-4 with a 1.99 ERA through three levels of the minor leagues before his recall last month to replace injured rookie star Francisco Liriano.

Garza was ripped in his Aug. 11 major league debut for seven runs and eight hits through just 2 2-3 innings against Toronto. He improved over his following two starts at home, yielding five runs and 10 hits with 12 strikeouts in 12 2-3 innings.

The right-hander struggled at Yankee Stadium on Sunday, giving up five runs, seven hits and four walks over 4 2-3 innings of a 10-1 loss to New York.

“That’s a great team over there,” Garza said. “They proved it today by taking advantage of my mistakes—that’s what good teams do.”

He’s yet to face the Tigers.

Minnesota has lost six of its last 10 at the Metrodome, but its 45 home wins are the most in the AL.

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Starting Pitchers

W. Ledezma Min vs. M. Garza Mil
3-3 Record 3-6
3.58 ERA 5.76
39 K 38
23 BB 23
1.38 WHIP 1.70

Scoreboard

Friday, Sep 8