DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander’s health is fine. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder are swinging well.
Are the Detroit Tigers hitting their stride a little earlier this year?
Verlander pitched seven strong innings, and Cabrera and Fielder each hit a two-run homer Tuesday night to lead the Tigers to their fifth straight win, 6-1 over the Minnesota Twins.
Detroit is trying for its third straight AL Central title, but the Tigers had to rally last September to win the division. Now they’re in first place and playing well. The Tigers are 15-10 at the end of April — compared to 11-11 at this time last season.
“The name of the game in baseball is to try to extend your winning streaks — when you’re playing well — as long as you can, and shorten the losing streaks,” Verlander said. “You’re not going to be hot the whole year. You just need to try to do the fundamental things right and play the game of baseball and see what happens. Our talent is going to take over, and I feel like we’re starting to show that now.”
Verlander (3-2) allowed a run and five hits. He struck out eight and walked two.
Vance Worley (0-4) gave up six runs and 10 hits in 4 2-3 innings. Worley was acquired by the Twins in an offseason trade with Philadelphia and started Minnesota’s season opener, but the right-hander has a 7.22 ERA.
Cabrera opened the scoring with his fourth homer of the year, and Fielder’s seventh was part of a three-run fifth. Alex Avila also went deep for Detroit.
Tigers pitchers struck out 10 — reaching that mark for the fifth straight game. That equals the longest streak by an American League team since at least 1921. The major league record since then is eight games by the Milwaukee Brewers last August, according to STATS.
“Since I’ve been here, our staff has always been a strikeout staff,” said Avila, Detroit’s catcher. “Being able to throw everything for strikes and being able to set up pitches is a big deal.”
Cabrera’s second opposite-field homer in three nights put Detroit ahead 2-0.
“Today was the best I’ve felt all season. I made good pitches. They just crushed them,” Worley said. “I made the exact pitch that I wanted to Cabrera. I even went back and watched the video. That pitch is a popup, and he drove it out of the park the other way. There’s nothing you can do about that.”
Wilkin Ramirez hit an RBI double for Minnesota in the second, but Avila answered in the bottom half. He entered the game hitting .176, but sliced a drive over the fence in left-center to make it 3-1.
Worley appeared to be in decent shape until the fifth, when Torii Hunter hit an RBI groundout to make it 4-1. Fielder followed one out later with a line drive that cleared the wall in right in a hurry.
Verlander left his previous start against Kansas City after seven innings with a blister on his pitching thumb, but the injury wasn’t expected to be too serious. He didn’t seem bothered Tuesday, throwing 114 pitches.
“It bled a little bit, but it was just kind of superficial,” Verlander said. “I was able to kind of manage it, which is why I came out of the game after seven last time.”
Drew Smyly took over in the eighth and struck out one hitter. Al Alburquerque came on in the ninth but walked two, prompting manager Jim Leyland to bring in Joaquin Benoit for the final two outs in what was still a non-save situation. Benoit fanned pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit for the second out of the ninth and Detroit’s 10th strikeout of the game.
NOTES: Minnesota star Joe Mauer snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a third-inning single. … Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe, a big Tigers fan, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. He spent some time before the game commiserating with Hunter and Smyly, who are both from Arkansas. … The Tigers try for a three-game sweep Wednesday. Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez (3-1) takes the mound against Scott Diamond (1-2).