Scherzer Ks 9, Tigers down Twins 6-3

The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Max Scherzer is piling up the strikeouts and the Detroit Tigers are piling up the hits.

Ever so slowly, they're starting to show glimpses of the team that started the season with World Series aspirations.

Scherzer struck out nine in a rain-shortened outing and Prince Fielder had his first four-hit game with the Tigers, leading Detroit to a 6-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Saturday.

Scherzer (4-3) gave up three runs and six hits in 5 1-3 innings before leaving due to a rain delay and Andy Dirks had two doubles and two RBIs for the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera added two hits and two RBIs and Jose Valverde picked up his eighth save in 10 chances.

The Tigers, who were the heavy favorites to win the AL Central when the season began, dropped to 20-24 following a three-game sweep at Cleveland earlier this week. Now they've won two in a row for the first time since April 18.

''Hopefully we're relaxing a little bit and doing what we can do pretty good,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ''We're supposed to hit pretty good and we can hit pretty good. I'm not going to get carried away with two games, but it's a pretty good sign.''

Carl Pavano (2-4) allowed six runs on 10 hits in 4 1-3 innings for the Twins, who have lost four straight. Justin Morneau and Denard Span homered for Minnesota, but the Twins struck out 16 times.

Slumping Twins slugger Josh Willingham struck out four times and the bottom four hitters in the lineup - Brian Dozier, Alexi Casilla, Drew Butera and Jamey Carroll - went 1 for 14 with 10 strikeouts.

Most of those strikeouts came courtesy of Scherzer, who is looking more and more like the capable sidekick to Justin Verlander he was last year. He fanned four in a row and five of six at one point in the outing, and set down 13 straight after giving up a solo homer to Morneau in the second inning.

The right-hander gave up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings in his first start of the season and has been trying to dig out of that hole ever since. He was tagged for five runs in a win over the White Sox on May 15, but has chewed up two struggling offenses in his last two starts.

Scherzer struck out 15 in a win over the Pirates last week, the most by a Tigers pitcher since Mickey Lolich in 1972. He fanned nine more on Saturday, getting Dozier and Butera twice each before a couple of hits, and a lot of rain, brought an end to his day in the sixth inning.

''I'm really pitching well with three pitches: fastball, slider, change,'' Scherzer said. ''I just keep making a couple mistakes every game leaving a pitch in the middle of the plate where they've been able to do damage with it. That's a good problem and a bad problem at the same time because obviously you're making mistakes and you feel you can make a batter pitch when those happen.''

The game started 20 minutes behind schedule because of weather, and was delayed another 42 minutes in the sixth inning when a heavy downpour pelted Target Field.

Octavio Dotel took the mound after the delay and wiggled out of a runners-on-the-corners, one-out jam by striking out Willingham and getting Morneau to pop out to third base. Dotel then struck out the side in the seventh before handing the ball to Joaquin Benoit.

''A good game and everything but to me the hero of the game was Octavio Dotel,'' Leyland said.

The Tigers jumped on Pavano in the first, getting an RBI double from Cabrera and an RBI single from Fielder to take a quick 2-0 lead. The veteran right-hander, who has been pitching through some soreness in his shoulder, seemed to steady himself in the next three innings, allowing only one hit.

But the powerful Tigers put together six straight hits during their four-run fifth, with Dirks delivering a two-run double and Cabrera an RBI single to make it 6-2.

Span homered in the sixth, and the Twins had the tying runner at the plate with one out in the eighth. But Benoit struck out Joe Mauer and Willingham to keep the Tigers comfortably in front.

NOTES: Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta snapped an 0-for-17 skid with a single in the sixth. ... Twins RHP Nick Blackburn (quad) threw a bullpen on Saturday and will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Rochester on Tuesday. ... Twins RHP Scott Baker, on the DL with Tommy John surgery, and his wife welcomed Annalee Baker into the world on Thursday night. ... RHP P.J. Walters (2-1, 2.95), who has helped the Twins' beleaguered rotation immensely since being called up from Triple-A Rochester, will start Game 3 of the series on Sunday against Detroit's Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.29). Porcello has given up 10 earned runs in his last three outings.

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