The Detroit Tigers have lost six of their nine meetings with the Minnesota Twins this season, but they have to like their chances this weekend at home, especially if one of the league’s best hitters isn’t at full strength.
Detroit (46-37) has won five of six on its homestand to improve its home record to an AL-best 30-12. The Tigers lead second-place Chicago by one-half game and are two in front of Minnesota (45-40).
The Tigers are coming off a three-game sweep of Baltimore, concluding with a 4-2 win Wednesday. Miguel Cabrera(notes) extended his hitting streak to 16 games. He’s batting .467 with 13 RBIs in his last 12 games, with nine of his 21 hits in that span going for extra bases.
“I’m looking forward to Friday,” said Cabrera, whose club won two of three against Minnesota at home in April. “But I’m not looking at anything beyond that - Saturday, September or October.”
This series could feature two of the AL’s leading hitters in Cabrera (.347) and Morneau (.345), although the latter sat out an 8-1 loss to Toronto on Thursday because of a mild concussion after he was accidentally kneed in the head the previous night. Morneau, who has 18 homers and 56 RBIs this season, has batted .360 in seven games against the Tigers.
“He wasn’t feeling very good. We’ll see how he does (Friday),” manager Ron Gardenhire told the Twins’ official website. “We’ll give him a day and then we’ll (aim) for (Friday). I can’t go any deeper than that.”
Gardenhire’s club could certainly use Morneau’s bat against Verlander (10-5, 3.85 ERA), who has a 1.81 ERA in his last seven home starts. The right-hander gave up one run and struck out 10 in seven innings of a 6-1 win over Seattle on Saturday - his fifth victory in six starts overall.
Verlander lost to Minnesota at home on April 27, giving up one unearned run and four hits in 5 2-3 innings of a 2-0 defeat.
Morneau is 9 for 33 against Verlander, but has four doubles and two home runs in their matchups.
The Twins, who led the division by 4 1/2 games less than a month ago, have lost 11 of 16 including two of three at Toronto this week.
“We’ll see what we’re made of over the weekend,” Gardenhire said.
Liriano limited Tampa Bay to one run and four hits while striking out 10 over seven innings Saturday, but wound up without a decision in an 8-6 loss after the Minnesota bullpen surrendered seven runs in the eighth.
The left-hander has split two starts against Detroit this year. He pitched eight innings of a 2-0 win at Detroit on April 27, but gave up six runs in six innings of a 7-5 home loss June 28.
Cabrera has had good success against Liriano, going 5 for 14 against him with three doubles and a home run.
“On paper, it looks like a heckuva matchup Friday night: Liriano against Verlander,” manager Jim Leyland told the Tigers’ official website. “That’s pretty good. If I was a fan, I’d be interested in that. It’s pretty neat.”