Tigers, Twins kick off series in Minnesota Friday night

Rick Porcello takes mound for Detroit

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MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - The Detroit Tigers will look to stretch their slim one-game lead over the second-place Minnesota Twins on Friday night. Though they are just one game above .500 (11-10), the Twins own a half-game lead over the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central standings and will try to claim a share of the top spot against the Tigers in Target Field.

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Detroit will turn to 25-year-old Rick Porcello, who looks sharp early in the season and boasts a 3.15 ERA in three starts. The Tigers hope that the young righty can improve on his only road start of the season Friday, as he surrendered 10 hits and five runs in San Diego on April 11.

Minnesota will counter with veteran right-hander Kevin Correia, who sports a 5.47 ERA and is still searching for his first win of the season. Correia has struggled to keep runners off base in his first four starts of 2014, allowing 29 hits and six walks in just 24 2/3 innings.

Correia last saw the Tigers during his final start of the 2013 season, when he fell victim to Max Scherzer's dominant seven shutout innings and picked up his 13th loss of the season. Correia allowed just one run over seven innings in that start, and improved his lifetime ERA against Detroit to 2.75 in six appearances.

Correia will have to deal with a Tigers lineup that features a re-energized Miguel Cabrera, who notched six hits in the final three games of the recent nine-game homestand. After his average dropped to a season-low .206 on April 21, Cabrera finished the series against the Chicago White Sox with six hits, including a double and a home run, and six RBI.

While Cabrera struggled with his swing, newly-acquired outfielder Rajai Davis was helping to keep the team afloat. The speedy veteran added three more hits, including his second home run of the season, on Thursday and raised his average to .328. Davis has been quite a steal for the Tigers through 19 games this season, adding seven stolen bases and great defense to his impressive offensive numbers. He has no hits against Correia in six career at bats.

The Tigers have shown some inconsistency since their 4-0 start to the season, losing eight of their last 15. The main culprit of the struggles has been the bullpen, which was shaky again Thursday night, surrendering two runs in just three innings of work. Of the seven active relief pitchers on the Detroit roster, four have ERAs higher that 4.50, and only Justin Miller has an ERA better than 3.50.

Miller has dominated early in his Detroit career, pitching 4 2/3 scoreless innings since being called up in early April. The Tigers signed the 26-year-old righty to a minor league deal last September when he was released by the Texas Rangers.

Veteran relievers Joe Nathan (6.23 ERA) and Joba Chamerlain (5.87 ERA) will have to improve for the Tigers to return to the ALCS for the third consecutive season.

Friday's series opener will be followed by afternoon games at 2:10 ET on both Saturday and Sunday.

TV: 8:10 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, FSN North (Minnesota)

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