Twins touch up Verlander, but not enough to beat him

Justin Verlander didn't appear to be his typically dominant self, but he still became the first big leaguer in nine years to reach 20 victories before Sept. 1.

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Detroit ace Justin Verlander gave up back-to-back homers to Luke Hughes and Jason Repko in the fifth inning Saturday, and Hughes also had a two-run double in the sixth. But Verlander still improved to 20-5 this season.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Detroit righthander Justin Verlander wasn't that dominant Saturday, but he had a four-run lead and had retired nine of 10 Twins batters heading into the bottom of the fifth inning.

Just when you thought he would coast his way to his 20th win, the Twins hit back-to-back solo homers in the fifth inning and then scored two more runs in the sixth to tie the score.

"We put some runs on the board and got some runners on against him, which was pretty good," Twins second baseman Luke Hughes said.

"But not enough."

Two-out RBI singles by Delmon Young -- remember him? -- and Miguel Cabrera in the seventh inning led Detroit to a 6-4 victory, the Twins' seventh loss in a row. Verlander (20-5) threw 120 pitches over six innings and handed back a four-run lead. It wasn't quite a Cy Young Award-worthy performance, but he remains the favorite to get it as he became the first pitcher since Arizona's Curt Schilling in 2002 to reach 20 victories before September.

"You can get after him," said Hughes, who homered, doubled and drove in three runs. "He comes at you with a fastball, he's got electrifying stuff. It is no easy task coming up against a guy like that. He's going to be battling for Cy Young every year that he pitches."

Verlander is the first Tigers pitcher to win 20 games since Bill Gullickson in 1991. Young and Cabrera each were 2-for-4 to lead Detroit's offense.

The Twins scored more than one run for the first time in seven home games, but it didn't stop them from losing for the 15th time in 17 games at Target Field. Righthander Carl Pavano (6-11) gave up six runs over 6 2/3 innings. Hughes and Jason Repko hit back-to-back homers in the fifth, and Hughes tied the score at 4-4 with a two-run double to right-center in the sixth.

"Unfortunately," manager Ron Gardenhire said, "another loss."

Rivera coming?

Gardenhire strongly hinted that catcher Rene Rivera will be called up from Class AAA Rochester in time for Sunday's game.

Catcher Joe Mauer said his sore neck felt much better Saturday. But, after going through batting practice, his neck began bothering him late in the game, leaving him unable to pinch hit.

Michael Cuddyer's continued swelling in his left wrist knocked him out of the starting lineup. Cuddyer said he hoped to play by Monday.

Gardenhire said he has to have another catcher now. So someone could land on the disabled list or sent down to Rochester to make room for Rivera.

"I can't continue to play with Joe [the way he is]," Gardenhire said. "He's been really sore, and that's a dangerous way to play the game."

Cuddyer was confident he would avoid the disabled list. "He wants to try and play," Gardenhire said.

Etc.

• Infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka (strained oblique) wants to play as well, but Gardenhire is being careful with him to make sure he doesn't come back too soon and risk re-injuring himself.

• Infielder Alexi Casilla (right hamstring) will head to Rochester on Sunday to begin a minor league rehab assignment. He could rejoin the team for a weekend series against the Angels in Anaheim, Calif.

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