Hardly party Central

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 22, 2011 - 12:36 AM

The Twins were no match for Tigers ace Justin Verlander as their losing streak to Detroit stretched to 10 games.

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The Twins entered Thursday night knowing they had 65 regular-season games remaining, with 13 of them -- or 20 percent -- coming against the Tigers.

The teams had played five games this year, and Detroit had won them all, without using Justin Verlander once.

Verlander has been remarkable this season, refining his arsenal to become one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball.

He put it all on display at Target Field in the opener of a four-game series, as the Tigers defeated the Twins 6-2.

Verlander (13-5) allowed one run on five hits over eight innings, with no walks and nine strikeouts, lowering his ERA to 2.24 and raising his American League-leading strikeout total to 162.

"He made it look really easy tonight," said Carl Pavano (6-7), who kept the Tigers scoreless for the first three innings but left trailing 5-1 after the sixth.

The sequence that should scare the Twins the most came in the second inning, after Michael Cuddyer hit a leadoff triple.

Suddenly for Verlander, it was no more Mr. Nice Guy.

To that point, Verlander had thrown 15 pitches, none of them faster than 94 miles per hour.

Jim Thome stepped in, and Verlander unleashed seven fastballs that registered these readings on the radar gun: 95, 97, 97, 97, 97, 97, 98. Thome fouled off one pitch but swung and missed at three others.

"[Verlander] gives you two different looks," Twins left fielder Delmon Young said. "We've seen him throw 92-93 with no one on base. And then, with runners in scoring position, he's knocking doors down, trying to hit 100."

Danny Valencia faced two fastballs, both at 97 mph, before Verlander unleashed his knee- buckling, 81-mph curveball. Valencia checked his swing on the second one, but home plate umpire Adrian Johnson called him out. Young grounded to second base, ending the inning.

Verlander always has had that ability, but early in his career, he was a max-effort pitcher the whole game.

"That's something I've been wary of this year, trying not to go to that too early," Verlander said. "I made a very conscious effort after that [second inning] to slow myself down and get back in a rhythm."

The Twins had only one baserunner the next three innings. They didn't score until the sixth. By then, Verlander had a 5-0 lead, and he turned it into his eighth career victory against the Twins in 15 decisions.

"We've had some good ones against him," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "So it's not like we feel like we're beat before we start the game, but you know you have to be pretty good to beat him. The guy's throwing as good as he's ever thrown."

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