The Twins are in the midst of a 19 game stretch played out over 18 days. Over the past week, much has been made of the first 12 games of this stretch, all against AL Central opponents, including co-leaders Detroit and Cleveland. The Twins have come out of the All-Star break playing a brand of baseball that still reminds fans of the early season woes that brought them 20 games under .500, but thanks to the Royals and some late game heroics from Danny Valencia, the Twins find themselves 5-3 through the first 8 games of this 19 game stretch. A week after the All-Star game and the Twins have picked up a game and a half on the division leaders.
Starting tonight the Twins will begin a four game series against the Detroit Tigers. Some savvy managing from Jim Leyland gave Justin Verlander an extra day of rest which allows him to take the mound for the series opener. Verlander is 12-5 and is one of the best pitchers in the American League. However, in his most recent start, Verlander was tagged for 5 runs (4 earned) in just 6 innings (his shortest outing of the year) against the Chicago White Sox. Despite the shortened outing Verlander remains as the most dominant starter on the first place Detroit Tigers staff.
The Twins will counter with veteran Carl Pavano. The 2011 version of Carl Pavano is 6-6 with an ERA just over 4, but the Twins are 6-2 over his last 8 starts and the Twins have provided him with an average of 5 runs. While 5 runs against Verlander would be nothing short of the gift he gave the White Sox last week, Carl Pavano should be able to keep the Tigers in place, as they are just 2-3 since the all star break and have only scored more than 5 runs a single time.
While Verlander has held current Twins to just a .254 batting average (compared to .283 for current Tigers against Pavano), the Twins have a higher On-Base Percentage and Slugging Percentage against Verlander than the Tigers do against Pavano, and their OPS is nearly 50 points higher.
The Twins have played well since the break, the Tigers have faltered. Pavano has pitched well and the team has played well behind him recently, while Verlander has struggled. And The Twins are hitting Verlander better than nearly every other team in the league.
Tonight, these Twins have a fighting chance.
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