Minnesota Twins first baseman Justin Morneau didn’t do much for Johan Santana when they last matched up with Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers. This time, it was uncertain if he would even be able to play.
With Morneau back in the lineup, Santana will oppose Verlander for the second time in his career as the Twins open a three-game series with the Tigers on Friday night.
Morneau went 0-for-3 with a walk and an RBI as the designated hitter, batting fifth as Minnesota (40-37) beat Toronto 8-5 on Thursday. Morneau missed five games after suffering a bruised right lung in a collision with Florida catcher Miguel Olivo on Friday night.
“I can deal with the soreness, now that the doctors told me I can’t do any more damage,” Morneau told the Twins’ official Web site.
He is expected to be the designated hitter again in his second game back, which will feature a couple of aces who have been dominant in recent starts.
The last time Santana (8-6, 2.83 ERA) faced Verlander (9-2, 2.78 ERA), Morneau went 1-for-4 and was batting .235 on the season after Verlander won the pitcher’s duel 2-0 on May 17, 2006. Morneau, who went on to become the AL’s MVP, will try to help give Santana some run support this time.
Santana and Verlander each pitched eight innings in that contest. Santana struck out 12, but allowed the game’s only two runs.
The left-hander has had two subpar starts against the Tigers this season, going 0-1 with a 3.75 ERA, but is 10-3 with a 2.70 ERA and one save in 17 starts and five relief appearances against them lifetime.
Santana is 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA in his last three starts, and 5-2 with a 1.80 ERA in eight road appearances. He allowed two runs and five hits while striking out eight in six innings to beat Florida 7-4 on Sunday.
Verlander, meanwhile, has won four straight starts—highlighted by his no-hitter against Milwaukee on June 12—posting a 1.24 ERA and holding opponents to a .160 batting average in that span.
The right-hander gave up one run, four hits and struck out 11 in seven innings to beat Atlanta 2-1 on Saturday.
He struggled against Minnesota on April 28, though, surrendering five runs— three earned—and eight hits in three innings as Detroit lost 11-3. Verlander is 3-2 with a 2.90 ERA in five starts against the Twins.
Detroit had lost two straight before beating Texas 5-2 on Thursday to remain one-half game ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central.
Tigers slugger Magglio Ordonez, who leads the majors with a .377 batting average, has hit safely in 14 straight games. He is hitting .442 (23-for-52) during that run.
Ordonez has fared well against Santana, batting .405 (15-for-37) with four home runs, a triple and four doubles against him.
Carlos Guillen, meanwhile, has a career-best 14-game hitting streak and has had at least one RBI in 11 straight games—one shy of the club record shared by Hall of Famer Mickey Cochrane and Rudy York.
“He’s locked in,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Rarely do you ever see him throw an at-bat away.”
Guillen is batting .444 (20-for-45) with five home runs and 20 RBIs during his hitting streak.
Detroit and Minnesota have three wins apiece in this season’s series, with each team winning two of three games on the road.