Tigers-Twins Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers were unable to wrap up the AL Central in front of their home fans.

But considering their weak competition over the final week, they shouldn't have too much trouble doing so on the road.

Justin Verlander takes the mound in Monday night's opener versus a Minnesota Twins team he hasn't lost to in 12 meetings.

The Tigers' magic number to clinch the AL Central remained at two following a 6-3 home loss to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday as well as Cleveland's 9-2 victory over Houston. Even with a Detroit (91-65) win on Monday, the division couldn't be clinched until Tuesday night at the earliest, when the Indians open their series with the White Sox.

Playing without Miguel Cabrera on Sunday due to groin soreness after he was 3 for 4 in Saturday's 7-6, 12-inning victory, the Tigers were unable to produce a similar late rally. However, Texas' 4-0 loss at Kansas City guaranteed Detroit at least a tie for a wild card.

Cabrera said he hopes to play Monday.

"Everybody wanted to clinch at home,'' said Brayan Pena, who scored in the ninth after doubling as a pinch-hitter. "But it doesn't matter how we do it. We just want to do it, because if we do it, everybody knows that we're coming back here. And those fans, they really deserve that."

After this series, the Tigers close their season with three games against NL-worst Miami.

"We should be envious of the situation they're in," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire told the team's official website. "Hopefully, guys watching that can see where we need to get to. It should be making them hungry for it. We don't want to see all this, we want to play good baseball."

The Twins (65-90), who come off Sunday's 11-7 loss at Oakland and are 3-14 in their last 17 at home, have had a hard time beating Verlander. The right-hander is 9-0 with a 2.22 ERA in 11 starts against them since suffering a 2-0 loss April 27, 2010.

He didn't get a decision while struggling in the last meeting, however, giving up six runs and 10 hits over seven innings of a 7-6 loss on Aug. 22.

Verlander (13-12, 3.66 ERA) is 1-4 with a 4.12 ERA over his last eight outings, with Detroit winning just once. His walk rate of 3.1 per nine innings is his highest since 2008, also the last season in which he posted a higher ERA than the one he currently owns.

Minnesota will counter with Mike Pelfrey (5-13, 5.34), who is in danger of losing his fourth straight start for the first time since dropping six in a row from April 25-May 26, 2008. He has recorded a 10.13 ERA in his latest three losses, throwing only 13 1-3 innings. The right-hander also received exactly one run of support in each of his last five starts.

Pelfrey is 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts versus Detroit this year. Omar Infante, who is batting .360 over his last six games, is 15 for 37 off him.

Prince Fielder has hit safely in eight consecutive games after connecting for his 25th home run Sunday and is 8 for 23 versus Pelfrey with three homers.