Verlander tries to continue mastery of Twins

Justin Verlander's 12 consecutive starts without a loss against Minnesota trails only John Danks' 14 versus Kansas City among the MLB's active streaks against one team.

Like the Minnesota Twins’ Phil Hughes, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander will carry a modest win streak into Friday night’s series opener at Comerica Park.

Verlander, though, will also be seeking a 10th consecutive victory against the Twins, who might not have Joe Mauer available for this three-game set.

Verlander (4-1, 2.68 ERA) took a no-hitter into the sixth inning Sunday in his fourth consecutive win, 9-4 against Kansas City. He gave up a season-low four hits while pitching seven innings for the third straight outing.

In his first matchup with the Twins this season, Verlander will try to avoid his first loss in the series since April 27, 2010. He has a 2.06 ERA in his last 12 matchups and 93 strikeouts in 83 innings.

His 12 consecutive starts without a loss against Minnesota trails only John Danks’ 14 versus Kansas City among the MLB’s active streaks against one team.

Verlander will try to add to his run while helping Detroit (20-10) bounce back from the end to a season-high, eight-game win streak. The Tigers blew a two-run lead Thursday in a 6-2 defeat to Houston.

"We won the series," third baseman Nick Castellanos told the Tigers’ official website. "Obviously, we want to win every game we play, but it’s not like we lost confidence now."

The Twins were dealt a third straight loss Thursday, 9-4 in Cleveland. Minnesota (15-18) is one shy of matching its longest skid of the season and has dropped seven of 10.

Mauer missed his fourth straight game with lower back spasms, but manager Ron Gardenhire said he could return Saturday. His absence Friday could make it even more difficult for Minnesota to beat Verlander as he is 23 for 62 (.371) with three homers in their matchups.

"(Mauer is) better," Gardenhire told the team’s official website. "We’re still looking at the end of this weekend. He believes he’ll be able to play by Friday or Saturday, but I think Saturday might be more realistic."

Sam Fuld and Aaron Hicks are on the seven-day concussion list, but Hicks might return Friday. Fellow outfielders Josh Willingham and Oswaldo Arcia have been on the 15-day DL since early April.

"We’re looking for nine right now, nine people that can play," Gardenhire said.

Hughes (3-1, 4.72) will try to lift his ailing club by winning a fourth consecutive start. The right-hander has a 2.79 ERA in his last three outings after posting a 7.20 mark in his first three.

Hughes gave up two runs over 6 1-3 innings Sunday in a 5-2 victory over Baltimore after earning a 5-3 win against Detroit on April 26.

"I certainly feel like I’m throwing the ball better than I was at the beginning of the year," Hughes told the team’s website. "I can still be better, but I’d like to keep it going."

Hughes gave up two runs and a season-low four hits in seven innings during the victory over the Tigers to snap a four-game losing streak against them, including a defeat in Game 3 of the 2012 ALCS while with the Yankees.

Including the playoffs, he’s 5-7 with a 4.48 ERA in 12 starts against Detroit and 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last three at Comerica.

Victor Martinez, riding an 11-game hit streak, is 1 for 8 in the past four regular seasons against Hughes. Miguel Cabrera, batting .361 in his last 14 games, is 15 for 28 (.536) with five homers in the regular season versus Hughes, his best showing against any active pitcher he’s faced at least 15 times.