Cabrera, Tigers have vital series with Twins

Tigers look to pull away with AL Central, Miguel Cabrera works toward elusive Triple Crown

MINNEAPOLIS - Miguel Cabrera continues his quest for the first Triple Crown since 1967 as the Detroit Tigers visit the Minnesota Twins in the opener of a three-game series on Friday.

If Cabrera is able to accomplish the elusive feat, he will likely play a big part in carrying the Tigers to the playoffs. Detroit leads the Chicago White Sox by two games in the American League Central with six contests left, while Cabrera tops the AL in RBIs (133) and batting average (.326). He has 42 homers, trailing Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton by one.

The Twins have won three of their last five, including a doubleheader sweep at Detroit on Sunday. Joe Mauer, who is hitting .354 against the Tigers this season, leads the way for Minnesota as he goes after his fourth batting title. The catcher is second behind Cabrera at .323.

Pitching Matchup: Tigers LH Drew Smyly (4-3, 4.24) vs. Twins LH Scott Diamond (12-8, 3.64).

Max Scherzer (16-7) was slated to make the start, but he was scratched due to a shoulder strain. Smyly steps in to make his 18th start. The rookie pitched 4 1/3 innings, allowing one run on three hits against the Twins on Sunday. He beat Minnesota on May 25, giving up three earned runs over five innings. Smyly has struck out 89 and walked 30 in 93 1/3 innings.

Diamond beat Scherzer and the Tigers in his last start, giving up two runs on four hits over seven innings. Diamond, in his second season, had gone 1-3 in his previous four outings. He has allowed four runs and nine hits in 14 innings against the Tigers this season. Diamond was 0-2 in two starts against Detroit in 2010.

Detroit reliever Al Alburquerque has allowed four hits and 15 strikeouts over 11 2/3 scoreless innings since returning from elbow surgery.

Twins infielder Alexi Casilla is batting .406 (13-for-32) in September with a .414 on-base percentage.

Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder is 12-for-27 with a homer and five RBIs the last eight games.

Copyright 2012 by All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.