It's usually a tough chore following the footsteps of Justin Verlander. It gets even more difficult when he wins.
That's exactly what Rick Porcello is faced with when he tries to pitch the Detroit Tigers to a series split with the Minnesota Twins today in the finale of a four-game series at Comerica Park.
Porcello will take the mound one day after Verlander recorded his fifth complete game of the season in Wednesday's 5-1 win over the Twins. The All- Star right-hander allowed four hits, including a home run, struck out seven batters and issued one walk to bounce back into the win column. Verlander had a three-start winning streak cut short in last Friday's loss at Tampa Bay.
"That's just what we needed. We needed a lot of innings. That's a blessing for us," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of his ace's performance. "He used all his pitches. He was terrific."
Verlander, who took the hill after a rain delay of two hours and 26 minutes, received a boost from All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera. The big slugger clubbed a pair of home runs and finished 3-for-3 with three RBI and three runs scored. Austin Jackson extended his hitting streak to 11 games with three hits and All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder drove in a pair of runs. The Tigers were able to win for the fourth time in seven tries and sit 4 1/2 games off the AL Central lead.
Detroit will welcome Kansas City to town for three games over the weekend.
Meanwhile, Porcello is starting to come around and will try to win his third straight start Thursday. He has won three of his last four trips to the hill and fired seven shutout innings of four-hit ball in Saturday's 6-2 victory against the Rays.
Porcello has permitted three runs through 20 innings over his previous three outings and is 6-5 with a 4.35 earned run average in 16 starts. He has faced the Twins twice this season, going 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA, and is 6-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 14 career starts against them.
Minnesota failed to extend its season-high winning streak to six games and Chris Parmelee's solo home run in the fifth inning was all the offense the club could muster.
Twins starting pitcher Brian Duensing allowed two runs and four hits in 4 1/3 innings before exiting the game with an ankle problem after taking a liner off the bat of Tigers catcher Alex Avila. X-rays were negative and he is listed as day-to-day.
"It's really good news," Duensing said on the team's website. "I was a little nervous at first because of the way it felt initially, but I was able to walk off and go up the stairs on my own and stuff like that. I was still kind of ginger with it, but I think I was more tentative than anything."
Minnesota had scored no less than five runs during its winning streak and is still last in the AL Central at nine games off the lead. It will head to Texas for three games over the weekend. Twins All-Star catcher/first baseman Joe Mauer was 0-for-4 against Verlander on Wednesday and entered the game batting .427 with three homers and 17 RBI in 22 games since June 2. He also began the day first in the American League with a .420 on-base percentage.
Scott Diamond has been Minnesota's best pitcher this season and gets the nod this afternoon. He has pitched eight innings in back-to-back wins over Cincinnati and Kansas City, and is 4-2 in his previous six starts.
Diamond allowed three runs in a 4-3 win over the Reds on June 24, then held the Royals to a pair of runs in Saturday's 7-2 triumph in the opener of a doubleheader, improving to 7-3 in 11 starts with a 2.63 earned run average. Diamond, who is 3-2 in five road starts, is still searching for his first win against Detroit.
The left-hander has dropped both of his career starts against the Tigers with a 3.65 ERA over 12 1/3 innings.
Minnesota and Detroit have split eight meetings this season. The Tigers, though, have won 22 of the last 30 meetings.