MINNEAPOLIS — The latest ball lost in the Metrodome's deceiving roof spoiled Justin Verlander's stellar start in the eighth inning, and the Minnesota Twins rallied past the Detroit Tigers 6-2 Saturday to move within two games of the AL Central lead.
Jason Kubel's two-run single with the bases loaded sent Verlander (16-9) to the dugout after a season-high 128 pitches, and Michael Cuddyer greeted Brandon Lyon with a three-run homer to break the game open.
The Twins won their sixth straight and moved four games above the .500 mark, both season highs, in front of the largest crowd, 43,338, at the Metrodome since opening day.
Verlander was on the verge of becoming the second AL pitcher to 17 wins, and he struck out Nick Punto to start his last inning. But after a single by Denard Span, Orlando Cabrera hit a medium-length fly ball down the left-field line. Defensive replacement Don Kelly misjudged it, and it hit on the turf just under his glove for yet another only-in-the-dome double. Cabrera clapped his hands hard and pumped his arms after arriving at second, and the stadium – which will host the Twins for only four more regular-season games – erupted in celebration.
Joe Mauer was intentionally walked, and then Kubel came through for Minnesota with a bloop that Kelly charged but couldn't reach. Cuddyer followed with his second homer in as many games.
Carl Pavano pitched through 11 hits and managed to limit the Tigers to two runs over seven innings, retiring six straight after an inning-ending, double-play grounder by Gerald Laird with the bases loaded in the fifth. Jesse Crain (6-4) threw a scoreless eighth for the victory.
Pavano beat Verlander 11-0 in Detroit on Aug. 8, his first start with the Twins after they acquired him from Cleveland, but the Tigers' flame-throwing ace sure made up for that flop.
Mauer put his impeccable left-handed swing on a high-90s fastball from Verlander and smacked it into the upper deck in the first for his 28th homer, but the Twins didn't come close to scoring again until the eighth. Verlander was still reaching 98 mph on the stadium radar in that last inning. He finished with six strikeouts to stretch his AL lead to 245, hardly consolation against the five runs that were charged to his record.
Miguel Cabrera drove in a run and had three hits for the Tigers, raising his second-half average to .349. He has 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 60 games since the All-Star break.
Carlos Guillen hasn't played quite as much for the Tigers this month. He was in left field and batting third, but went 0-for-4 to drop his average to .235. … With Cuddyer playing first base full time for the Twins in place of Justin Morneau, Kubel has moved from DH to right field. Bad knees made playing the field a problem for Kubel in recent years, but manager Ron Gardenhire said he has no hesitation using Kubel as an everyday outfielder. … Span and Carlos Gomez, perhaps Minnesota's two fastest players, were both caught stealing second by Laird. … Former Twins second baseman John Castino, who shared the 1979 AL Rookie of the Year award, threw out the ceremonial first pitch.