The Detroit Tigers are set for a three-game weekend series with the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis. The Tigers find themselves with a shrinking division lead and a crucial series with the very team that has eaten away at that lead.
This will be the Tigers final trip to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome and no one will be sad to see it go. The fast turf and grayish dome roof has given visitors fits for years. Bad things happen when you enter a house of horrors, and the Metrodome certainly qualifies as such.
A series win would go a long way to erasing some of those unpleasant memories. The Tigers' lineup with two of their top three pitchers to face the Twins. Here is a look ahead:
Friday, Sept. 18, 8:10 PM
Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.21) vs. Brian Duensing (3-1, 3.53)
It seems scary to say, but Rick Porcello may be the team's best pitcher this month. Rick got the Tigers off the shnide after losing the first two games of a four game set against Toronto. That kind of leadership will be important as the Tigers begin their most important series of the season.
Porcello's mound presence has been impressive all year. It appears as if he was born for the big stage and embraces the pressure of a playoff chase rather than succumb to it. Rick looks to extend his personal three game winning streak.
Rick Porcello has fared quite well against the Twins this season. He is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in his 11 innings over two starts.
Brian Duensing will make his third appearance against the Tigers in 2009, although his first as a starter. Duensing Pitched long innings in relief against Detroit in July and August. The Tigers were able to out-slug the Twins in both high scoring affairs, although the damage was done against other pitchers.
No team has been able to muster much offense against Duensing as a starter, as shown by his 3-0 record and 2.00 ERA since his move from the bullpen.
Saturday, Sept. 19, 4:10 PM
Justin Verlander (16-8, 3.34) vs. Carl Pavano (12-11, 4.91)
This will be another game when Justin Verlander needs to show his ace qualities. The middle game of an important three game series could shift momentum one way or another. Verlander is not a man to back down from a challenge, but he can get too amped up and suffer because of it.
Carl Pavano; just the man the Tigers did NOT want to see. Despite mediocre numbers overall, Pavano has managed to tame the Tigers to the tune of a 4-0 record with a 1.48 ERA and 18 strikeouts in just over 30 innings.
Since being acquired from Cleveland, Pavano has gone 0-2 with a 4.74 ERA at the Metrodome. Something will have to give on Saturday. The law of averages seems to favor the Tigers, history favors Pavano.
Sunday, Sept. 20, 2:10 PM
Nate Robertson (1-2, 5.35) vs. Scott Baker (13-8, 4.35)
The Tigers have been able to take advantage of a couple of poor outings from Scott Baker. Baker has made two starts against the Tigers this year and allowed 11 runs in just ten and a third innings.
Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez and Ramon Santiago all have multiple hits off of Baker this year. More of the same will be needed.
Nate Robertson makes his second return to the Tigers starting rotation for the series finale; Nate missed his last start due to a groin strain.
A good performance from Robertson will go along way towards calming fears about a collapsing pitching staff. Robertson had looked good following surgery in which four masses were removed from his elbow.
Robertson pitched a scoreless inning of relief against the Twins on May 5. Avoiding walks and keeping the ball in the park will be the recipe for success.
Around the AL Central
Tigers: @MIN 9/18-9/20, @CLE 9/22-9/24
Twins: DET 9/18-9/20, @CWS 9/21-9/23
White Sox: KAN 9/18-9/20, MIN 9/21-9/23
Indians: @OAK 9/17-9/20, DET 9/22-9/24
Royals: @CWS 9/18-9/20, BOS 9/21-9/24
The Tigers' magic number is 13. This is the total number of Tiger wins and second place team losses needed for the Tigers to secure their first division championship since 1987.