MINNEAPOLIS - The Detroit Tigers are closing in on their third straight American League Central title.
The Tigers will look to reduce their magic number to one when they visit the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday. Detroit had a chance to drop its magic number Monday but squandered a 3-0 lead in the eighth inning and ended up losing in 11 innings to the Twins, who are not giving in down the stretch.
The biggest issue in the first half of the season for the Tigers was the bullpen, which appeared to be settled when Joaquin Benoit took over the closer's role and Jose Veras was brought in to be part of the setup team. Those issues cropped up again Monday when Veras surrendered two runs in the eighth and Benoit served up the tying blast in the ninth. Detroit needs a combination of two wins or two losses by the Cleveland Indians to wrap up the Central and plays its final five games on the road.
TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, FSN North (Minnesota)
PITCHING MATCHUP: Tigers RH Doug Fister (13-9, 3.71 ERA) vs. Twins LH Scott Diamond (6-11, 5.54)
Fister is showing some inconsistency as the regular season winds down, with earned run totals of one, seven, zero, five, one and four in his last six turns. The California native struck out 10 against Seattle last week but yielded four runs on nine hits in 7 2/3 innings. Fister went 7 2/3 innings at Minnesota on June 16, allowing two runs on as many hits to pick up the win.
Diamond is getting another chance to prove himself as a major-league starter and earned his first win since June 20 on Wednesday at Chicago, allowing three runs on five hits in 6 1/3 innings. The 27-year-old does not miss many bats and owns a total of five strikeouts in his last seven major-league appearances. Diamond last faced Detroit on June 14 and was charged with four runs while striking out one in 5 2/3 innings to suffer the loss.
1. Tigers 3B Miguel Cabrera (groin) returned to the lineup Monday but will be used cautiously over the final week.
2. Detroit 1B Prince Fielder will likely be in the lineup the rest of the way. The burly All-Star reached 500 straight games played on Monday.
3. Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire is two wins shy of 1,000 for his career.