Twins-Tigers Preview


Wins have been hard to come by for the Minnesota Twins this season, and especially difficult to earn against the Detroit Tigers in recent years.

They're hoping their former MVP can provide a boost.

Justin Morneau is set to come off the disabled list when Minnesota looks to avoid a 15th loss in 18 contests at Comerica Park in the opener of a two-game set Wednesday night.

The Twins (10-26) possess the majors' worst record and finished a 3-6 homestand with a 5-0 loss to Cleveland on Tuesday. They haven't won consecutive games since April 11-12, and their .235 batting average is among the worst in the AL.

Minnesota hopes Morneau can provide some help. The 2006 AL MVP hasn't played since leaving with a sore left wrist in a loss to Los Angeles on April 30.

Morneau is hitting .347 with five homers in his last 24 games versus Detroit, which has won 18 of the last 22 meetings overall while outscoring the Twins by 49 runs.

Minnesota's starting pitching staff also hasn't performed up to standards, posting a 6.38 ERA that is by far the worst in baseball.

"We have to get it done. Sure, we're not getting a lot of breaks and stuff like that, but if you start playing better baseball, breaks start going your way," manager Ron Gardenhire told the team's official website. "Right now we're not getting it done as a group. Pitching, hitting, the whole package. We're missing too many opportunities."

Nick Blackburn (1-4, 7.18 ERA) will be on the hill Wednesday hoping to help turn things around.

Blackburn finally picked up a victory in Friday's 7-6 win over Toronto, but he allowed five runs and gave up three homers in five innings in another rough outing. He had gone 0-8 with a 5.88 ERA in 13 starts since his last victory July 8 over the Chicago White Sox.

"In no way do I deserve that one," Blackburn said. "It's kinda the funny thing about starting pitcher's records."

The right-hander is 0-3 with a 10.34 ERA in his last four appearances - three starts - against the Tigers, and he hasn't fared well in his matchups with Miguel Cabrera.

The Detroit slugger is 13 for 29 (.448) with three homers off Blackburn, and he also homered in Tuesday's 10-8 win over the White Sox.

Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn hit three-run homers in an eight-run sixth for the Tigers (18-18), who will be seeking consecutive victories for the first time since winning four straight April 15-18.

"It doesn't matter when, where or how it looks. A win's a win," Raburn said. "It's great to come back from six down and pull it out."

Rick Porcello (3-3, 5.18) will take the mound for Detroit after allowing four runs while walking three in five innings of an 11-4 loss to Oakland on Friday. He had won his previous two starts with a 2.51 ERA.

The right-hander is 5-1 with a 2.61 ERA in his last six starts against Minnesota.

Tigers closer Jose Valverde allowed two runs in the ninth Tuesday and left with lower-back tightness. Manager Jim Leyland said Valverde's status will be determined after he's examined further.