Detroit Tigers Look To Bury Minnesota Twins In Central Race

John ParentCorrespondent IAugust 7, 2009

ARLINGTON, TX - JULY 29:  Miguel Cabrera #24 of the Detroit Tigers celebrates his three-run home run with Carlos Guillen #9 and Magglio Ordonez #30 during action against the Texas Rangers on July 29, 2009 at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The American League Central race will likely go down to the wire.  Detroit leads a three team pack headed into play this weekend, two games up on the White Sox, and 4.5 games ahead of the Twins

Minnesota, coming off a rough series in Cleveland where they lost two of three (sound familiar?), travel to Detroit in what could be a pivotal series in the divisional standings.  A series sweep and they would trail the Tigers by just 1.5 games, while getting swept would leave Minnesota 7.5 games back, and likely playing for next year.

A sweep for the Tigers is unlikely, however.  Minnesota has taken six of the eight meetings between the two clubs this year, though only two of those games have come in Detroit.  These games coming at the CoPa will give Detroit an edge.  Detroit has won 19 of their past 25 home games, while the Twins have struggled mightily away from the Metrodome.

A drastic change from the success of previous years, the Twins feature five players who have clubbed at least 14 home runs this season.  The middle of their lineup is every bit as good as any in the league. 

Joe Mauer is threatening to win his third batting title, and has added a power stroke this year, already surpassing his previous career high in home runs.  Justin Morneau continues to be the best hitter that no one mentions, he enters play tonight with 28 bombs and a league leading 89 RBI.

But if you think the rest of the order can’t beat you, you are in for a rude surprise.  Jason Kubel has had a breakout year, providing a third left-handed power threat, while Micheal Cuddyer has rebounded from an injury filled 2008.  Throw in Joe Crede, who simply owns the Tigers, and you can expect a difficult task facing the Tigers’ staff.

The Tigers will send Armando Galarraga to the mound tonight.  The right-hander surrendered a career high eight earned runs in an 11-1 loss in Cleveland on Sunday.  Bouncing back against the Twins would be a bit of a shock, as Galarraga has never beaten Minnesota, going 0-5 in six career starts, with a 5.68 ERA. 

He may be catching the Twins at the right time, however, as Minnesota has dropped five of the last six, scoring just 15 runs in the five losses.  During the same span, the Twins have allowed 45 runs.

Minnesota will attempt to curb that trend with rookie right-hander Anthony Swarzak.  Swarzak has never faced the Tigers and managed just three innings in his last start, a loss to the Angels

Glen Perkins and Scott Baker would round out the weekend rotation, unless the Twins decide to throw newly acquired Carl Pavano in at some point.  It would behoove them to do so, as Pavano has stymied the Tigers three times already this season, all while pitching for the Indians.

The Tigers will send Justin Verlander to the mound for Saturday’s contest, and Jarrod Washburn will make his second start for the Tigers on Sunday.  Verlander fanned 13 Twins in his only start against them this season, while Washburn is 1-0 in two starts against Minnesota.  He has allowed just one run over 14 innings while striking out 10.

The Tigers appear to have the edge from a pitching standpoint, but the Twins lineup is dangerous, and they always play well against Detroit.  If the starting pitching holds up, left-handers Bobby Seay and Fu-Te Ni will be relied upon to neutralize the left-handed thunder from Kubel, Mauer, and Morneau.  Those matchups could be the key to a series win for either team.