DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander knew it was a big game, and he wasn't about to let his teammates down.
Verlander tossed seven sharp innings and the Detroit Tigers beat the Minnesota Twins 4-2 Sunday, denying their AL Central rivals a four-game sweep in the final series before the All-Star break."My intention was to go out there and get us a win going into the break, and I was able to do that," said Verlander, who improved to 5-0 in his last seven starts. "That was big."Manager Jim Leyland had avoided calling the game a must-win for the Tigers, and stuck with that line of thought after the victory."We needed it bad, but it wouldn't have been the end of the world if we had lost, and it doesn't mean that we are going to win the pennant because we won," he said. "Justin pitched really well. They've been hot all week, and it seemed like every ball they've hit hard has dropped in, and he stopped them."Verlander (7-9) allowed two runs and four hits, struck out eight and walked two. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs during his unbeaten streak, lowering his ERA from 5.05 to 4.15."Of all the times I've faced him, that's the best I've seen him throw," Minnesota's Jason Kubel said. "He made all the pitches he needed."Clete Thomas hit his first major league homer for the Tigers, who had lost 10 of their last 12 games to the Twins.Miguel Cabrera put Detroit ahead 3-2 with a run-scoring groundout in the fifth and Matt Joyce hit his ninth homer in the eighth.Thomas' second-inning drive off Nick Blackburn (7-5) gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead and came after a disputed call allowed Marcus Thames to reach.Thames hit a one-out grounder to third baseman Brian Buscher, and first base umpire Jim Wolf ruled Buscher's throw pulled Justin Morneau off the bag. After Morneau and manager Ron Gardenhire argued, all four umpires conferred, but the call stood even though replays showed Morneau was still touching the base when he caught the throw."[Wolf] told me that he had blown the call -- he checked with the other umpires and no one else had seen it," Gardenhire said. "He said that he had made a mistake. All you can do is ask the umpires to be honest -- we all make mistakes."He didn't throw the next pitch over the fence."Blackburn (7-5) allowed three runs, two earned, and five hits in seven innings."All my pitches were working -- I had a really good fastball," Blackburn said. "I just made a couple mistakes and it cost me."The Twins didn't have a hit until Alexi Casilla led off the fourth with a single. Joe Mauer grounded into a fielder's choice but Morneau doubled to put runners on second and third.Mauer scored on Verlander's wild pitch and Brendan Harris singled in Morneau to tie it at 2. Harris has five RBIs in the last two games.Joel Zumaya worked the eighth and Todd Jones got three outs for his 17th save in 19 tries."That's not the way we wanted it to end," Gardenhire said. "We wanted to take all four and make it a better road trip, but they just pitched better than we did."
Magglio Ordonez (strained oblique) will play a rehab game with Class-A West Michigan during the All-Star break, and could be back with the Tigers when they resume play Thursday in Baltimore. ... Morneau will take part in Monday's All-Star Home Run Derby in New York. ... Leyland will be among 50 guests from baseball at a White House dinner on Wednesday night. "I can't believe that I'm on the list, but it is going to be exciting to have dinner with President Bush," he said. "That's big time."