MINNEAPOLIS — Justin Verlander threw eight dominant innings, Jhonny Peralta drove in three runs with three hits andthe Detroit Tigers beat Minnesota 6-2 on Thursday for their 10th straight win over the Twins.
Brennan Boesch hit a two-run homer, and Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Peralta — batting fourth, fifth and sixth — were all over Twins starter Carl Pavano (6-7) in the first game of another important four-game series in the four-team AL Central race.
Verlander (13-5) gave up five hits and one run without a walk, striking out nine.
The Tigers moved a half-game ahead of idle Cleveland in the division, while the fourth-place Twins fell six games back.
The Tigers teed off on Pavano, who lost only once in his previous eight starts but wasn’t fooling anyone this time. He managed to get Martinez to ground into a double play in the second inning after a leadoff single by Cabrera, and he ended the fourth with a slick stop to start a double play on Guillen’s bases-loaded comebacker. Pavano contorted his face as he walked off, flashing a bewildered look suggesting he wasn’t sure how he snagged the ball.
He wasn’t as fortunate in the fifth or the sixth.
Boesch clobbered a 2-1 changeup with two outs that soared into the seats in left-center field for a 3-0 lead. In the next inning, the hard-hitting heart of the order appeared again. Cabrera doubled. Martinez singled. Then Peralta drove in Cabrera with a double, and Carlos Guillen added a sacrifice fly for a five-run lead. Pavano finished the inning, but he allowed nine hits, five runs, one walk and one hit batter while striking out two.
Joe Mauer played first base for the third straight game, allowing Drew Butera to catch Pavano and continue their strong chemistry as battery mates. Mauer made a highlight-reel diving stop of Guillen’s sharp grounder down the line and got up quickly for an easy unassisted out. He kept up his surge in the batter’s box, too, with two more hits. He’s batting .550 (11 for 20) as a first baseman.
Verlander lost two of his last three starts, but he got back in a groove at the right time.
Michael Cuddyer was the only other one who made much of a sound with his bat against Verlander, leading off the second inning with a standup triple. But the right-hander reared back and struck out Jim Thome on a 98 mph fastball and Danny Valencia on a checked swing before retiring Delmon Young on a groundout.
Alexi Casilla, Mauer and Cuddyer hit three consecutive two-out singles in the sixth, with Cuddyer spoiling the shutout, but Thome came up and struck out for a third time, freezing on an 82 mph curveball. The 40-year-old slugger has hit seven of his 596 career home runs against Verlander, but he was overmatched in this game against the American League’s strikeout leader.
Verlander threw 126 pitches, hardly a high number for the 28-year-old iron-armed ace. He has thrown 101 pitches in each of his 22 starts this season.
Notes: Mauer is a .375 hitter in 48 career at-bats against Verlander. ... The Cabrera-Martinez-Peralta trio isn’t the only part of the Tigers lineup on a tear this summer. Boesch has 10 homers, 12 doubles, 23 RBIs and a ,350 average in his last 40 games. ... Guillen had an RBI but was hitless against Pavano, falling to 0 for 19 in his career against the right-hander. Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before the game he wanted to give him a chance since he’s been swinging so well (7 for 17) since returning five days ago from a left knee injury that kept him out of major league action for the last 11 months. ... Pavano will visit children Friday at Mary’s Place, a transitional housing shelter just down the street from Target Field, and give them gift bags containing shoes, headphones, tickets, food vouchers, sports equipment and other items