Tigers-Twins Preview

Justin Verlander has won nine straight decisions against the Minnesota Twins and he’s never lost at Target Field.

He’ll look to maintain those trends Sunday when his Detroit Tigers look to capture a three-game series from the Twins.

Verlander (3-1, 2.18 ERA) is 9-0 with a 2.06 ERA in his last 12 starts against Minnesota, including 4-0 with a 1.89 ERA in six outings at Target Field.

One of the toughest hitters for Verlander to face over the years has been Joe Mauer, a .371 hitter against him. That ranks Mauer sixth among 81 batters with at least 25 plate appearances versus Verlander.

Mauer’s 62 at-bats against Verlander match the fifth-most of any player.

Verlander will look to win four straight starts for the first time since May 22-June 7. He owns a 1.89 ERA during his latest win streak, allowing two runs in seven innings in Tuesday’s 8-6 home win over the Chicago White Sox.

One hitter Verlander has never seen is Chris Colabello, who is among baseball’s RBI leaders with 27. Colabello has been quiet in this series, going 1 for 8 with an RBI and three strikeouts.

Detroit (12-9) will be looking for innings from Verlander after its bullpen was forced to log 5 1-3 innings in Saturday’s 5-3 defeat because starter Anibal Sanchez left in the third inning with a right middle-finger blister.

Sanchez’s injury clearly hurt the Tigers, who own one of baseball’s worst bullpen ERAs at 5.65. The Twins (12-11) scored four runs off reliever Jose Ortega in the fifth inning, taking the lead for good on Trevor Plouffe’s two-run single. Ortega had just arrived from Triple-A Toledo.

”It was a tough spot for the entire bullpen,” manager Brad Ausmus said. ”We were a little bit strapped going into today as it was. Sanchez’s injury straps us even more.”

Minnesota starter Kyle Gibson (3-1, 3.63) has never faced Detroit. He allowed seven runs over three-plus innings Tuesday in a 7-3 loss at Tampa Bay.

The right-hander had given up just two runs over 19 1-3 innings in his three other starts this year. Gibson hasn’t allowed a run at home in his last 13 1-3 innings.

Minnesota entered Saturday with a major league-leading 113 walks this season, and added eight more – six against Detroit’s bullpen.

”As we’ve talked about many times now, we’re taking our walks and getting people on, and you score runs like that,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. ”That’s a good way to go about your business.”

Plouffe left in the seventh inning with a left triceps contusion. He is day to day and it may be a good time for Gardenhire to rest him since he’s 4 for 24 against Verlander.

Ausmus says he plans to put catcher Alex Avila back into the lineup Sunday. Avila, a .224 hitter, hurt his shin sliding into home plate Friday.

Former Minnesota star Torii Hunter continues to torment his first big league team, going 6 for 9 with three doubles in this series. Hunter has six straight multihit efforts at Target Field, going 16 for 29 with an .862 slugging percentage.