Jim Thome's milestone home runs helped the Minnesota Twins halt their struggles against the Detroit Tigers for the time being. If they're to win back-to-back games during the same season in the Motor City for the first time in more than three years, they'll have to get past one of the hottest pitchers in baseball.
Justin Verlander looks to win his sixth consecutive start and become the first pitcher to 18 wins Tuesday night when the AL Central rivals continue their series.Thome's second homer Monday made him the eighth player to reach 600 and capped a five-RBI night to help Minnesota to a 9-6 victory. The veteran slugger's 65 homers versus the Tigers are his most against any team."You dream about it but when it finally happens it's kind of surreal," said Thome, whose five RBIs were his most in over two years. "It's a neat thing, it really is."Monday's win ended a six-game losing streak in Detroit and gave the Twins (53-67) their second win over the Tigers in 10 meetings this season. Minnesota won the final meeting of 2009 and first of 2010 at Comerica Park, but hasn't won back-to-back games in the same season in Detroit since winning four straight during the 2008 season.Having lost 10 of the last 12 matchups there, the task likely becomes more difficult with Verlander (17-5, 2.35 ERA) on the mound.Verlander has won five straight starts with a 2.61 ERA, striking out 43 in 38 innings during that stretch. He allowed three runs and struck out 10 in seven innings of his 100th career victory -- a 4-3 win over Cleveland on Thursday.In the right-hander's lone start against Minnesota this season, he gave up one run and five hits over eight innings of a 6-2 win July 21 at Target Field. Verlander is 3-1 with a 1.59 ERA over his last five starts versus the Twins.He'll look for run support from a lineup boosted by the acquisition of Delmon Young, who didn't have to go far when being informed of the trade.The Twins dealt Young to the Tigers prior to Monday's game and he promptly homered against his former team in his first at-bat, though Detroit's AL Central lead was trimmed to two games over idle Cleveland with the loss."It felt good to be on board, especially against the old team," Young said. "Especially in a pennant race, you just want to score as many runs as possible. Just wanted to hurry up and get it out of the way, but I wanted to get a win."Miguel Cabrera went 2 for 4 on Monday to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. He'll look to continue his hot stretch against Twins starter Nick Blackburn (7-9, 4.36), whom he's hitting .444 against for his career.Blackburn hasn't won since July 8, going 0-3 with a 4.78 ERA in his last six starts. He pitched better in his most recent outing, allowing one unearned run in 6 2/3 innings but didn't earn a decision in Minnesota's 5-2 victory over Boston on Wednesday.The right-hander will attempt to build on that performance while making some improvement to his recent numbers against Detroit. Blackburn didn't factor into the decision after allowing five runs in six innings May 30, though his ERA increased to 6.58 over his last four starts versus the Tigers.