Series: Game 1 of 4

Series starts Mon 9/28

Game 1: Monday, September 28
Game 1: Tuesday, September 29
in 10
Game 2: Tuesday, September 29
Game 3: Wednesday, September 30
Game 4: Thursday, October 1

7:05 PM ET, September 28, 2009

Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan 

Starting Pitchers

Minnesota: Blackburn (11-11, 4.03 ERA)

Detroit: Porcello (14-9, 3.96 ERA)

Twins-Tigers Preview


The AL Central race is coming down to the final week of the season. The next four days will be the most vital.

The division-leading Detroit Tigers and the second-place Minnesota Twins open a four-game set Monday night at Comerica Park.

As recently as three weeks ago, the Tigers (83-72) appeared to have a comfortable cushion atop the Central, leading Minnesota by seven games after a 5-3 win at Tampa Bay on Sept. 6. That advantage has dwindled to two games due to an 8-11 stretch by Detroit. The Twins have capitalized by winning 11 of 13, including taking two of three from the Tigers at Minnesota from Sept. 18-20.

Detroit's lead nearly shrunk to one game Sunday after an 8-4 loss at Chicago. However, the Twins fell 4-1 at Kansas City.

Now, the race could be settled in the next four games in Detroit. The Tigers rank third in the majors with a 48-26 home mark.

"It's a very crucial time," Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. "I would say as close to a playoff game as you can get without actually being a playoff game, so you just have to go out there and have some fun with it."

Minnesota is 5-1 during a nine-game road trip. The Twins conclude the regular season with a three-game home set against Kansas City this weekend, while the Tigers host the White Sox in their final three contests.

"It's in our hands," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of the title race. "We've got to win this series and see what happens."

The Twins have dropped three of five at Detroit, but hold a 9-5 overall advantage in the season series.

Nick Blackburn (11-11, 4.18) has put a difficult stretch behind him to become a key contributor during the Twins' late-season surge. He'll take the mound Monday looking to reduce the gap in the Central race by winning his third start in a row.

The right-hander has won his last two starts by allowing two runs in 13 1/3 innings, after going 1-7 with a 7.36 ERA in his previous 11 outings.

Blackburn was impressive again last Monday, scattering eight hits in seven innings of a 7-0 win at Chicago.

"This is what we all play for. It's a blast," Blackburn said. "Being in a race like this makes it even more exciting. "There's more pressure, but it makes us enjoy the wins even more."

Blackburn is 2/3 with a 4.50 ERA lifetime against the Tigers. However, he's 0-3 with an 8.00 ERA in four games -- three starts -- at Detroit, with all of those games resulting in losses for Minnesota.

The Tigers will give the ball to Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.14), who is 4-1 with a 3.28 ERA in his last six starts to bolster his candidacy for AL Rookie of the Year honors. The 20-year-old right-hander, though, is more concerned with helping Detroit win its first division title since 1987.

"It's a big game, but it's just another game," Porcello said. "Try to take that approach and stay even-keel throughout that entire time."

Porcello is 1-2 with a 3.71 ERA in three starts against the Twins, losing his last two -- both in Minnesota -- while getting no runs of support. The win came at home May 5, when he yielded four hits in seven innings of a 9-0 victory.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Gameday Matchup

Current StreakW5L1
Last 107-34-6

Pitching Matchup

N. Blackburn
11-11, 4.03 ERA

Last Game:
10/3 vs KC
7.0 IP, 2 ER
Dec = ND
R. Porcello
14-9, 3.96 ERA

Last Game:
10/6 at MIN
5.2 IP, 1 ER
Dec = ND

Gameday Lineups

1. D. Span, CF C. Granderson, CF
2. O. Cabrera, SS P. Polanco, 2B
3. J. Mauer, C M. Ordonez, RF
4. J. Kubel, RF M. Cabrera, 1B
5. M. Cuddyer, 1B A. Huff, DH
6. D. Young, LF C. Guillen, LF
7. J. Morales, DH G. Laird, C
8. M. Tolbert, 3B B. Inge, 3B
9. N. Punto, 2B R. Santiago, SS