Detroit (78-68) at Minnesota (74-72)
Season Series: Twins lead 7-4
At Metrodome: Twins lead 5-1
As the Tigers get set to battle the Twins this weekend in Minnesota, I thought it would be a good time to take a deeper look at the Twins and the possible challenges the present. Former AL MVP Justin Morneau has been lost for the season, and Tiger Killer Joe Crede is out as well. Does this news mean the Tigers will waltz home with a series win, or are there new Tiger Killers on the horizon?
The Tigers will throw Rick Porcello, Justin Verlander, and Nate Robertson in this series. The Twins will counter with Brian Duensing in game one, Carl Pavano, and Scott Baker will follow in the final two games.
Porcello (13-8, 4.21) will make his second start in the dome, losing his first effort while giving up six runs (four earned) in four innings. Verlander (16-8, 3.34) gets the ball on Saturday in a Big Fox game, he has a 1-1 record and 3.81 ERA in four career starts in Minnesota, while fanning a batter per inning. Robertson (1-2, 5.35) has a 5-5 record with one complete game and an ERA of 4.04 in 11 career Metrodome starts.
Duensing (3-1, 3.53) is a left hander and has made just six starts this season. He has faced the Tigers twice in relief, allowing just one run over 8.1 innings and holding the Tigers to a .161 average and an OPS of .478. Gerald Laird has homered in two career at bats against Duensing.
JV will have his hands full on Saturday, as Carl Pavano’s successes this season versus Detroit have been well chronicled, both in his time with the Indians, and since coming to the Twins.
Pavano (12-11, 4.91) has made four starts against the Tigers this year and won them all, posting a 1.48 ERA in the process. Simply put: he owns this team. Aubrey Huffis the only current Tiger to ever homer off Pavano, and is hitting .294 in 17 at bats against him.
Baker has been the Twins’ defacto ace this season, leading the club in wins, strike outs and WHIP. Baker (13-8, 4.35) is 4-3 in 14 career starts against Detroit, but has not fared well this season, posting a 9.58 ERA in two starts without a decision.
There are plenty of favorable matchups for Detroit with Baker. Marcus Thames and Curtis Granderson have each taken him deep four times, while Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen have averages over .400 against him. In all, of the eight Tigers with at least 10 career at bats against Baker, six have an OPS of .893 or better. The other two, Brandon Inge and Placido Polanco, have struggled mightily, going a combined 11-59 (.186).
Even sans Morneau and Crede, the Twins offense will present a host of problems for Tigers’ pitchers. In the dome this season, the Twins average 5.16 runs per game compared to 4.55 runs on the road. They have also played their best baseball versus the Tigers, carrying a .315 team average, easily their highest against any AL team. Oddly, Minnesota has a team average of just .245 at home versus Detroit, however.
The Tigers average just 4.07 runs per game on the road this season, but have fared better than that in the dome, where Detroit has averaged 5.5 runs in six games.
Watch out for these guys
Denard Span has a career .430 average with seven extra base hits in 93 at bats against Detroit. Joe Mauer has nine career home runs off Tiger pitching, the most against any opponent, while carrying a .350 average and .948 OPS in 80 games.
Nick Punto‘s average may not scare you, but the Tigers are shaking in their collective boots when he comes to the plate. Punto has drawn more walks from Tiger pitchers than any other club’s and has a career .265 average against them. His .355 OBP against Detroit is the highest against any club.
Most of the time, you don’t have to worry if your opponent is using a backup catcher, but with Mike Redmond, you should. Redmond has hit better against Detroit than any other team over his career, posting a .414 average and .963 OPS.
There are many reasons for fear and respect the Twins, especially in the dome, but if the Tigers can escape with at least one win, things will be looking up for the post season.
Detroit’s magic number is at 13 heading into play tonight and each of these next three games represent a two game swing. A Twins win keeps the elimination number on hold, while a Tigers win would shave two off of that number.
Anything short of a sweep for the Twins could be disastrous for their chances, as even taking two of three would leave them three full games behind the leaders with just 13 games left in their schedule.
all statistical information via baseball-reference.com