Tigers vs. Twins: What to expect from this weekend's series
Justin Verlander takes mound for Tigers in Game 1
DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers are coming off one of their worst series losses in recent memory Friday as they finish up their nine-game road trip with three games in Minnesota.
The Tigers and Twins have already faced off this month in a three-games series at Comerica Park. In the first two games, the Tigers outlasted the Twins to clinch the series. But in the final game, the Twins crushed the Tigers 11-5.
Game 1:Verlander vs. Santiago
Game time: 8:10 p.m. Friday
Hector Santiago will get his second look at the Tigers in the series opener, as he looks to build off three good starts already this season. Santiago allowed just three hits and two runs over 6.1 innings when he lost to the Tigers on April 11.
Justin Verlander hasn't seen the Twins yet this season, but he'll be hungry for a bounce-back outing Friday after being lit up for nine earned runs in Cleveland. The Indians amassed 11 hits, including three homers, in just four innings against Verlander.
The Tigers' ace held the White Sox and Red Sox to a combined two earned runs in his first 13.1 innings this season, striking out 14 batters. Current Minnesota Twins batters have a lifetime average of .222 against Verlander with five homers and 54 strikeouts.
Only former MVP Joe Mauer has enjoyed sustained success against Verlander, batting .333 with four homers, five doubles, 13 walks and 13 strikeouts in 75 at-bats.
Game 2: Boyd vs. Mejia
Game time: 2:10 p.m. Saturday
Adalberto Mejia, 23, is off to a solid start in his rookie season, holding the White Sox to three earned runs in 6.2 innings over two starts. Mejia has never faced the Tigers, but the young lefty will have his work cut out for him against the right-handed power trio of Ian Kinsler, Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera atop the lineup.
Opposing Mejia will be Matt Boyd, who, since his rocky first start in Chicago, has been the Tigers' best starting pitcher. In the last cycle through the Tigers' starting rotation, the team went 1-4 with its only win coming on Boyd's excellent outing in Cleveland.
Boyd has held opposing hitters to one run on eight hits and four walks in 12 innings over his last two starts. The Twins mustered only one hit over six innings against Boyd on April 11, striking out six times.
Game 3: Fulmer vs. Gibson
Game time: 2:10 p.m. Sunday
Kyle Gibson had a very strange start against the Tigers on April 12, shutting them out through three strong innings before allowing five runs -- capped by an Andrew Romine grand slam -- in the fourth inning to end his outing early.
Gibson has yet to make it through six innings in any of his three starts this season, allowing a combined 11 earned runs in 14.1 innings. A low strikeout rate has always been an issue for the right-hander, and so far he's whiffing even fewer batters this season.
Michael Fulmer will make his fourth start of the season, looking to eclipse the six-inning mark that has signaled the end of his first three starts. Last season's AL Rookie of the Year has kept the Tigers in every game, but he's fought his command early in the season and struggled to pitch deep into games.
Fulmer is striking out nearly a batter per inning and sports a very good 1.06 WHIP, so there's no reason to worry. But he's hoping to improve on his last start against the Twins, when he allowed three runs on four hits over six solid innings on April 12.
The Tigers will be without shortstop Jose Iglesias, who was placed on the seven-day concussion disabled list after a collision at second base at the end of Wednesday's game.
Dixon Machado is likely to carry most of the load at shortstop as Iglesias recovers.
In a corresponding move, star relief pitching prospect Joe Jimenez was recalled from Toledo to join the big-league bullpen. He has a chance to provide support to a group that ranks last in the league through 15 games.
It appears that the Tigers have settled on Alex Wilson as the seventh-inning reliever in close games, while Justin Wilson has been dominant in the eighth inning. The pair was solid in both the Cleveland and Tampa Bay trips this last week.
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