Tigers ace Justin Verlander will attempt to wrap up the best April of his career Tuesday night against the Twins.
But Minnesota's revamped rotation has been pitching pretty well lately, too, and the Twins will hand the ball to Vance Worley as they face Verlander at Comerica Park.
By the numbers, Verlander has enjoyed his strongest April yet. He owns a 1.95 ERA, having allowed only seven earned runs in 32 1/3 innings across five starts. He's struck out 33 batters and allowed only 31 hits. The only number that's not quite up to par is Verlander's win total, as he's only 2-2. He can pick up win No. 3 against the Twins, whom he beat on Opening Day.
Verlander allowed two runs (one earned) in seven innings, but received a no-decision his last time out. He left that start against Kansas City after seven innings with a blister on his right thumb, a crack in the skin near the fingernail. He has been receiving treatment for it and expected it to clear up in time for Tuesday's game.
"I noticed it after my last start, and it wasn't too bad," Verlander said Thursday. "It started getting a little bit worse after the fifth. I started noticing it, and after the seventh, I talked to our pitching coach, and we kind of came to a joint decision. At this point in the year, there's no point in creating something that possibly could become a nagging issue, so we just made the decision to call it a day."
Tuesday will be an Opening Day rematch between Verlander and Worley, who has settled down after a rough start to the season. He's given up only three runs over his past 12 innings, but hasn't won a start this season.
As a whole, Minnesota's staff has turned into something of a strength lately. Over their past nine games, Twins starters have gone 4-4 with a 2.98 ERA, four homers allowed and 32 strikeouts with 12 walks. Minnesota held Texas to just eight runs over a four-game series, and manager Ron Gardenhire knows Detroit's lineup presents an equally challenging task for his staff.
"We're going to get another big test here in Detroit with another lineup that can absolutely abuse you, baseball-wise, with offense, and we're going to have to do the same thing," Gardenhire said. "[The Rangers series] was definitely one of those moments where you sit back and say, 'How are we going to handle this lineup?' We did very well.
"Worley's had a couple starts where he didn't look like he had a whole heck of a lot, but he made it through five innings just by battling, and a couple other guys have been able to do the same thing. Even without their best stuff, they've gone out there and competed and at least got us into the second half of the game. Last year, a lot of those games ended up in the third inning, and we went into the bullpen. That's the impressive part. These guys know how to pitch enough to get us deeper in the game, even when they haven't had their best stuff."
Twins: Dozier's leadoff hitting streak ends
• Infielder Brian Dozier went 0-for-4 in Monday's series opener against Detroit, snapping his four-game hitting streak and a 10-game stretch in which he reached base safely. He was in the leadoff spot for eight of those 10 games, and he seems to have found a home there.
Dozier is 12-for-37 (.324) in nine games as the Twins' leadoff man, although his season average dropped to .243 after Monday's performance.
"He's been at the top of the lineup [in the minors]. Even in spring, I had him batting second," Gardenhire said. "He's used to hitting in the first inning. Like I said, he's not a kid I'm too awful worried about. He went through some things last year and has rebounded very nicely."
• Right-hander Cole De Vries (forearm) is scheduled to pitch in an extended spring training game Tuesday.
Tigers: Leyland still making bullpen maneuvers
• Manager Jim Leyland said Monday afternoon the Tigers have "got some maneuvering to do yet with our bullpen," though he wouldn't offer specifics. It's not hard to see, however, that Detroit still has to find more defined roles for its relievers, especially when it comes to pitchers who can throw multiple innings.
"Our bullpen is still complicated," Leyland said. "It's a whole lot less complicated because [closer Jose] Valverde is back at the end. That makes it less complicated. However, we have a lot of one-inning guys. That makes a big difference. I'm looking at that."
• Miguel Cabrera has driven in 26 runs, the most by a Tiger in April since Magglio Ordonez collected 26 RBIs in April 2007. If Cabrera drives in a run Tuesday, he will match Tony Clark's RBI total from April 1997, the most by a Tiger in the season's opening month since at least 1921.
• The Tigers have struck out 242 batters this season after Max Scherzer added 10 in Monday's 4-3 win, the most by a Tigers team in April since at least 1921.
• The Twins bullpen has posted a 1.93 ERA (eight earned runs in 37 1/3 innings) and held opponents to a .181 average (25-for-138) in their past 12 games, including Monday night, when Brian Duensing and Josh Roenicke combined to pitch 2 2/3 hitless, scoreless frames.