One is the reigning American League Most Valuable Player. The other is one of the favorites to win this year's MVP award -- and could win baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967.
Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera are nightmares to hit off of and pitch to, respectively. On Saturday, the Twins were overwhelmed by the Tigers' potent combination in a 6-4 loss at Target Field.
Verlander shut down the Twins early and Cabrera put the game away late as Detroit increased its lead in the American League Central to two games over the White Sox with four to go.
The Twins got an eighth-inning grand slam from Ryan Doumit, who has eight RBI in the first two games of this series. But they got no closer, as Jose Valverde worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth inning for his 33rd save.
Playing in their second-to-last home game of the season, the Twins were facing a tough task in trying to score runs off Verlander (17-8).
The Twins didn't get their first hit until Ben Revere singled leading off the fourth inning. They tried to put together good at-bats, but Verlander was especially nasty to the meaty part of the batting order, striking out Justin Morneau three times, Doumit once and Chris Parmelee twice. He struck out the three in order in the fourth after Joe Mauer followed Revere's single with a walk.
Verlander hummed along at 95 and 96 miles per hour on the radar gun, but he got ahead 0-2 on Parmelee in the third, reached back and hit 100 mph on the stadium gun. That's vintage Verlander, climbing the velocity ladder as the game goes along.
"That's that extra he keeps in his tank," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He can do that -- 96, 97 in big situations. He knows how important that part of the game was. He really started to let it fly there for a couple innings. And that's what he brings to the table. That's why he's won a Cy Young and is probably up there again."
Detroit scored twice in the second inning, and a two-run deficit seems more like six runs with Verlander on the mound. The Tigers appeared to pour it on in the seventh, when Cabrera got hold of a Casey Fien sinker with two on and sent it into the seats in left -- his 43rd home run of the season, tying him with Texas' Josh Hamilton for the AL lead.
Right before Cabrera's blast, Quintin Berry drew a walk off Twins reliever Alex Burnett.
"The most important thing in the inning when we gave up four was the walk to the left fielder [Berry]," Gardenhire said. "He's trying to bunt him over, just let him bunt him over."
The homer was Cabrera's lone hit in four at-bats Saturday, while Mauer went 0-for-3. Cabrera is hitting .327 to Mauer's .320. And Cabrera is safely in the AL RBI lead with 136.
"I had a pretty good hitter over there in Pittsburgh that had some pretty good credentials," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, referring to Barry Bonds. "But this guy's awful good."
Doumit's blow came after Verlander left in the eighth with a 2-0 lead and Denard Span at first. Mauer and Morneau drew walks off of Joaquin Benoit, and Doumit launched a 2-2 pitch to left for his second homer in as many games. The Twins then put two more runners on before reliever Al Alburquerque struck out Pedro Florimon to end the threat.
"If you talked to him a week ago or maybe not even that long ago, he'd tell you that he really feels like he's scuffling," Gardenhire said of Doumit. "So it shows how the game changes. A couple good ballgames in a row and now he's hot as fire."