Coming off a much-needed victory and sending Max Scherzer to the mound should have the Detroit Tigers feeling confident heading into their series finale with the Minnesota Twins.
Scherzer tries to win his fifth straight start against the Twins while looking to help the Tigers earn a split of the four-game road set Sunday (1:00 p.m. pregame, 2:10 first pitch on FOX Sports Detroit).
After falling 20-6 on Friday, then opening a split doubleheader Saturday with a 12-4 loss, Detroit (69-59) snapped a three-game slide with an 8-6 victory in the nightcap.
Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez each had three hits and Justin Verlander labored through 5 2-3 innings to earn his 11th win in the second game for the Tigers, who remain three back of first-place Kansas City in the AL Central.
"We really couldn’t let this game slip away from us," Verlander said.
Despite the victory, Detroit starters Robbie Ray, Buck Farmer and Verlander have allowed 17 runs and 19 hits over 8 1-3 innings in the series.
The Tigers hope that trend stops with Scherzer (14-4, 3.07 ERA), who has a 2.39 ERA during his four-start winning streak versus Minnesota (58-71). Though he wasn’t at his best against the Twins on May 10, Scherzer came out ahead after allowing three runs, five hits and four walks in six innings of a 9-3 home victory.
The right-hander is 6-1 in his last 11 starts, and posted a 1.78 ERA in 10 before he allowed four runs in the first two innings and lasted seven while striking out nine in an 8-6, 11-inning victory at Tampa Bay on Tuesday.
Despite the rocky start to his last outing, Scherzer seems pleased with the follow-up to his Cy Young Award-winning season.
"That was my mindset coming into this year: I was going to be a better pitcher than I was last year," Scherzer, who has 34 strikeouts in 23 innings over his last three starts, told MLB’s official website.
"Take all the numbers, throw them out. I’m not referencing wins and losses or anything," he added. "If you look at how I’m pitching and what I’m able to execute, I’m executing all my pitches at a higher level right now."
Joe Mauer is 7 for 16 with three doubles and seven RBIs in his last four games versus Detroit, but hitless in his last eight against Scherzer.
Minnesota’s Kyle Gibson (11-9, 4.13) allowed six runs in two innings against Scherzer and the Tigers on May 10, then yielded five hits in seven innings of a 2-0 victory at Comerica Park on June 13.
Gibson has made three quality starts but has struggled in his other three outings since the All-Star break, recording a 1.66 ERA while winning three while going 0-2 with an 8.64 ERA in the other three. He was given a 5-0 lead after one inning Tuesday, but allowed five runs in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-5 home defeat to Cleveland.
"It’s just a bad job," Gibson said. "To just give it away slowly and give all the momentum back is the opposite of my job."
Miguel Cabrera is 2 for 5 with a homer versus Gibson.
Despite going 2 for 10 overall Saturday, Cabrera is batting .359 in his last nine road contests.
Victor Martinez is 10 for 19 with six runs scored in his last five versus Minnesota. He’s 1 for 5 with a double against Gibson.