Justin Verlander tries to get the Detroit Tigers one step closer to an American League Central title on Monday, as they begin a three- game series against the lowly Minnesota Twins at Target Field.
Detroit was denied a chance to secure a division title in front of its fans, as it dropped a 6-3 decision to the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. Still, even if the Tigers had won it wouldn't have mattered, as Cleveland beat Houston on Sunday.
Although Cleveland is off, the Tigers can clinch at least a wild card spot and a division tie if they beat the Twins.
"Everybody wanted to clinch at home," said Brayan Pena. "But it doesn't matter how we do it. We just want to do it, because if we do it, everybody knows that we're coming back here. And those fans, they really deserve that."
Detroit was without slugger Miguel Cabrera on Sunday, as the AL's reigning MVP sat with a sore groin. However, he said he hopes to play Monday.
Verlander, meanwhile, is 1-4 with a 4.12 ERA over his last eight outings, and the Tigers have lost six of his last seven starts. The former Cy Young Award winner has been inconsistent all season and is 13-12 with a 3.66 ERA, his highest since 2008.
"I think the stuff has been getting better just about every time out," Verlander said. "How I'm going to be in the postseason, we'll see. You never want to say anything is clinched or anything until it is."
Minnesota returns home after a miserable 1-6 road trip.
"We have not played well," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've been sloppy here (in Oakland). It's been demoralizing sitting in the dugout and watching us keep getting pounded like that."
Gardenhire is three wins away from becoming the eighth active manager to reach 1,000 wins and the 60th all-time.
Hoping to get Gardenhire closer to that milestone on Monday will be righty Mike Pelfrey, who has lost his last three starts and has pitched to a 10.13 ERA over that span. He is 5-13 on the year with a 5.34 ERA.
In four starts versus Detroit this year Pelfrey is 2-2 with a 4.70 ERA.
Detroit is 9-7 against the Twins this season.