MINNEAPOLIS -- The Detroit Tigers know the Minnesota Twins are likely to be hanging around down the stretch and are glad to knock them back whenever possible.
Relying on strong starting pitching and timely hitting, the Tigers did just that.Rick Porcello cruised through six innings and Detroit took advantage of Francisco Liriano's control problems in a 5-2 win over the Twins on Sunday.Jhonny Peralta, Wilson Betemit and Ramon Santiago each had an RBI, and the Tigers extended their lead in the AL Central to two games for the first time this season.Victor Martinez added three hits for Detroit and Jose Valverde converted his 26th consecutive save opportunity."To win three out of four here, you got to be thrilled," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "They're not an easy team to beat."Delmon Young had two hits for the Twins, who finished a 12-game homestand 6-6 and lost a half-game in the standings as they try to keep pace with the Tigers, Indians and White Sox in the division.Minnesota fell seven games back in the AL Central."We had some opportunities. We had some teams we could have made some ground up against," said Twins designated hitter Jim Thome. "It would have been nice to win a series from one of these teams."Porcello (10-6) was forced to sit through several long stretches while his teammates were hitting, but he managed to stay loose and continue his July success. The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits in six innings and improved to 4-0 this month."As a pitcher you can't complain about long innings," Porcello said. "We're putting up runs and it's my job to stay loose and make sure I'm ready to go."It's also the starter's job to wiggle his way out of trouble if needed. Porcello did just that when he got Michael Cuddyer to ground into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third in the first inning."Cuddyer's one of the biggest reasons they're back in this thing along with their pitching," Leyland said. "To get him in the first inning was huge."Porcello also improved to 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA in his last six starts against the Twins.Twins fans cheered before the game as Bert Blyleven's Hall of Fame induction speech was shown on Target Field's big screen. Those cheers turned to jeers once the game started and Liriano (6-8) started bouncing sliders in the dirt.Liriano lasted only 2 1/3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits, four walks and two wild pitches. He needed 78 pitches to record seven outs."We're fortunate that Liriano didn't have his command today," Leyland said. "He's a good pitcher and a lot of times those balls look like strikes and you want to swing at them. We did a good job avoiding that today."It was the fourth time in five starts against the Tigers that Liriano has failed to pitch beyond the third inning. He left before talking to reporters after the game.Detroit scored three runs in the third, two on singles from Magglio Ordonez and Betemit, and one on a Santiago fielder's choice.The Tigers saw their 11-game win streak over the Twins snapped on Saturday but ended up taking three of four in the series to keep Minnesota from gaining momentum as it tries to recover from a terrible start to the season.After Young doubled home Danny Valencia to make it 4-2 in the fourth, Porcello struck out Tsuyoshi Nishioka looking to end the threat.The Twins also had a runner on third with two outs in the third, but Joe Mauer flew out to center to end the inning. Mauer is 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position and two outs this season.Porcello's strong start has become the norm for the Tigers recently. With Sunday's win, Porcello joins teammates Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer with 10 wins."We need that to continue because that's going to be the bottom line whenever this is all said and done," Leyland said. "They went on a little decent roll here so hopefully it keeps up."The Texas Rangers are the only other team in baseball with a trio of 10-game winners.
The Tigers optioned RP Lester Oliveros to Triple-A Toledo after the game. Leyland said pitcher Chance Ruffin will be called up before Monday's game against the White Sox. ... Twins starter Scott Baker threw 82 pitches over five shutout innings on Saturday, his first game back from a right flexor strain. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Baker should be able to throw 100 pitches in his next start. ... Leyland gave C Alex Avila his first day off since starting in the All-Star Game. ... The Twins will carry 13 pitchers on the roster to start their 10-game road trip on Monday. ... Leyland on Blyleven entering the Hall of Fame: "His day has finally arrived, and deservedly so. There's nowhere else to go after that, unless you make it upstairs."