MINNEAPOLIS — Prince Fielder broke open a scoreless game with a two-run double in the sixth inning, the spark that Rick Porcello and the Detroit Tigers used to beat the Minnesota Twins 4-0 on Friday night.
Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta followed Fielder's soaring drive with RBI doubles of their own, ending the night for Twins starter Scott Diamond (4-6). Even better for the Tigers was that the four-run cushion kept sputtering closer Jose Valverde out of a pressurized save situation.
Porcello (4-3) didn't need much relief. The right-hander breezed through seven scoreless innings, allowing just two singles and one double without a walk. He struck out five and gave the Tigers their 19th quality start (of six innings or more and three runs or less) in the last 20 games.
Despite his status as the afterthought of this stacked rotation behind Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Anibal Sanchez and Doug Fister, Porcello has shined in his last four appearances. He's 2-1 with 30 strikeouts in 27 innings and just 15 hits, five runs and four walks against him during that stretch.
Diamond matched Porcello frame for frame until he walked Austin Jackson, the leadoff man back in his familiar spot after missing the last month because of a pulled left hamstring, with one out in that decisive sixth. Torii Hunter advanced Jackson with a groundout, and Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked.
Fielder made the Twins pay. With one of those huge upper-cut swings, he smacked a 2-0 curveball high off the towering right-field wall to put the Tigers in front. Cabrera ran through the stop sign by third base coach Tom Brookens, whose arms were still straight up in the air as the big slugger chugged home without a throw.
Valverde came in for the ninth after Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit collaborated on a scoreless eighth. Valverde ominously walked Joe Mauer to start the inning, but Ryan Doumit followed with a double-play ground ball. Josh Willingham was grazed by a pitch, but Justin Morneau struck out looking to end the game.
In Valverde's previous six appearances, he allowed 10 hits, seven runs and five homers over 5 1/3 innings while blowing two of his five save opportunities.
Valverde gave up a tying, two-run homer to Kansas City's Lorenzo Cain with two outs in the ninth inning on Wednesday, a game the Tigers lost in the 10th. Detroit's bullpen, the one glaring area of concern on this otherwise-championship-caliber club, has a 4-12 record with eight squandered saves in 22 chances.
Manager Jim Leyland bristled at a question about whether Valverde was still the closer, angrily lacing his answer with expletives.