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Published: Sunday, 7/24/2011

Tigers extend lead in Central

Detroit Tigers' Jhonny Peralta breaks his bat as he connects for an RBI-single during the third inning Sunday. Detroit Tigers' Jhonny Peralta breaks his bat as he connects for an RBI-single during the third inning Sunday.

MINNEAPOLIS — Rick Porcello cruised through six innings and the Detroit Tigers took advantage of Francisco Liriano’s control problems in a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday.

Jhonny Peralta, Wilson Betemit and Ramon Santiago each had an RBI, and the Tigers extended their lead in the AL Central to two games for the first time this season.

Victor Martinez added three hits for Detroit and Jose Valverde converted his 26th consecutive save opportunity.

Delmon Young had two hits for the Twins, who finished a 12-game homestand 6-6 and lost a half-game in the standings as they try to keep pace with the Tigers, Indians and White Sox in the division.

Minnesota is now seven games back in the AL Central.

Forced to sit through several long stretches while his teammates were hitting, Porcello (10-6) managed to stay loose and continue his July success. The right-hander allowed two runs on five hits in six innings and improved to 4-0 this month.

Porcello also improved to 4-1 with a 2.30 ERA in his last six starts against the Twins.

Twins fans cheered before the game as Bert Blyleven’s Hall of Fame induction speech was shown on Target Field’s big screen. Those cheers turned to jeers once the game started and Liriano (6-8) started bouncing sliders in the dirt.

Liriano lasted only 2 1-3 innings, allowing four runs on six hits, four walks and two wild pitches. He needed 78 pitches to record seven outs.

It was the fourth time in five starts against the Tigers that the lefty has failed to pitch beyond the third inning.

Detroit scored three runs in the third, two on singles from Magglio Ordonez and Betemit, and one on a Santiago fielder’s choice.

The Tigers saw their 11-game win streak over the Twins snapped on Saturday, but ended up taking three of four in the series to keep Minnesota from gaining momentum as it tries to recover from a terrible start to the season.

The Twins had runners on first and third with one out in the first inning, but failed to score when Michael Cuddyer grounded into a double play.

After Young doubled home Danny Valencia to make it 4-2 in the fourth, Porcello struck out Tsuyoshi Nishioka looking to end the threat.

The Twins also had a runner on third with two outs in the third, but Joe Mauer flew out to center to end the inning. Mauer is 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position and two outs this season.

Starting pitching is a big reason the Tigers sit atop the AL Central. With Sunday’s win, Porcello joins teammates Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer with 10 wins.

The Texas Rangers are the only other team in baseball with a trio of 10-game winners.

Notes: Twins starter Scott Baker threw 82 pitches over five shutout innings on Saturday, his first game back from a right flexor strain. Manager Ron Gardenhire said Baker should be able to throw 100 pitches in his next start. ... Tigers manager Jim Leyland gave C Alex Avila his first day off since starting in the All Star game. ... The Twins will carry 13 pitchers on the roster to start their 10-game road trip on Monday. ... Leyland on Blyleven entering the Hall of Fame: “His day has finally arrived, and deservedly so. There’s nowhere else to go after that, unless you make it upstairs.”

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