Justin Verlander became the majors’ first 20-game winner, grinding through six innings in the Detroit Tigers’ 6-4 victory over the Twins yesterday in Minneapolis.
Verlander (20-5) gave up four runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and three walks to become the first pitcher to win 20 games before the end of August since Arizona’s Curt Schilling in 2002.
Minnesota’s offense made it tougher on Verlander than expected. Luke Hughes had a home run, a double, and three RBIs and Jason Repko put one of Verlander’s vaunted fastballs into the upper deck in left field for his first homer of the season.
But former Twin Delmon Young’s RBI single in the seventh gave the Tigers the lead for good and put Verlander in position for the win.
The six innings tied a season low for Verlander, a 20-game winner for the first time - and the first time by a Tigers pitcher since Bill Gullickson in 1991.
Verlander left after giving up the second single of the day to .170-hitting Drew Butera in the seventh. Jose Valverde picked up his 39th save in as many chances.
Alex Avila and Miguel Cabrera hit solo homers for the Tigers in the second inning off Carl Pavano (6-11) and Cabrera added an RBI single in the seventh for a 6-4 lead.
Pavano gave up six runs - five earned - on nine hits with four strikeouts and a walk in 6 2/3 innings.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland has been quoted as saying he doesn’t think a pitcher should be eligible to win the MVP award, a stance that raised some eyebrows considering the incredible season by his own ace.
He tried to clarify his position before the game.
“I want everyone in here to know and please print that I support Justin Verlander for MVP to the hilt,’’ Leyland said. “I want to make that perfectly clear. The question was asked to me if I thought a pitcher should be the MVP and my answer to that is no, I do not. But under the way the system is, I will certainly support Verlander to the hilt as a possible candidate for the MVP.’’
Rays 6, Blue Jays 5 - B.J. Upton barely missed a home run in the sixth inning, then hit a three-run shot in the seventh that sent Tampa Bay past host Toronto.
Upton’s 18th homer put the Rays ahead, 6-2, and Tampa Bay held on despite a pair of late home runs by Toronto.
Brewers 6, Cubs 4 - Yovani Gallardo matched a season high with 10 strikeouts over seven innings and Prince Fielder hit a 443-foot homer before the Brewers bullpen held on in host Milwaukee’s victory over Chicago.
Casey McGehee and Corey Hart also homered for the Brewers, who moved 10 1/2 games ahead of the Cardinals in the NL Central.
Angels 8, Rangers 4 - Vernon Wells hit the first of visiting Los Angeles’s five solo home runs and had an RBI triple to back up Ervin Santana pitching on short rest for a victory over AL West-leading Texas.
Mike Trout and Bobby Wilson, the last two hitters in the lineup, both went deep in the fourth off C.J. Wilson (13-6), who gave up a career-worst four homers. Peter Bourjos also homered off the Texas starter.
Indians 8, Royals 7 - Asdrubal Cabrera hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to lift host Cleveland to a comeback win over Kansas City after the Indians’ Jim Thome hit a solo shot for his 602d career homer.
Giants 2, Astros 1 - Jeff Keppinger hit a run-scoring single with two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift San Francisco over Houston.
Pirates 7, Cardinals 0 - Rookie Brad Lincoln pitched six scoreless innings and participated in visiting Pittsburgh’s smackdown of St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter with an RBI double and walk.
Josh Harrison had three singles and three RBIs, Garrett Jones also had three hits with a pair of doubles, and Neil Walker homered for Pittsburgh.
Dodgers 7, Rockies 6 - Matt Kemp hit a game-ending homer in the 11th inning for his 100th RBI of the season, reaching the mark for the second time in his career and giving Los Angeles the win.
Reds 6, Nationals 3 - Brandon Phillips got two more hits in the leadoff spot and host Cincinnati reached .500 for the first time since early July with a win over Washington.
Diamondbacks 3, Padres 1 - Chris Young hit a two-run homer, Joe Saunders pitched seven strong innings, and visiting Arizona stretched its winning streak to five games.
White Sox 3, Mariners 0 - John Danks went the distance for visiting Chicago, allowing just three hits while striking out 10.
Hurricane Irene forced the postponement of several games along the East Coast. The Phillies and Marlins were unable to sneak in a game in Philadelphia, Yankees-Orioles in Baltimore was washed out, and the Braves and Mets also were postponed in New York.