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DET@MIN: Verlander gets his 20th win of the year

MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Verlander is baseball's first 20-game winner this season.

It won't go down as one of his best starts, and it did not come easy, but Verlander picked up his eighth straight victory Saturday as the Tigers beat the Twins, 6-4, at Target Field.

"It feels great -- what a team win," Verlander said. "I think that emulated all we go through during the season. There's been times I've picked these guys up, there's been times they've picked me up. To get to 20 at this point in the season, obviously you can't do it all on your own. You've got to have a lot of help. These guys have helped me along the way, and today was just another example of that."

Making his 29th start, Verlander was the first pitcher to record 20 wins before the end of August since Curt Schilling did so in 2002 with the D-backs. Verlander is the fifth pitcher to reach the 20-win mark in August over the past 20 years, joining Roger Clemens (1997), John Smoltz ('96) and Jack McDowell ('93).

All but Schilling won the Cy Young Award at the end of their respective seasons.

"He's been picking us up all year, and today we picked him up a little bit," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "It's quite an accomplishment. I'm really thrilled for him."

Twenty wins is a career high for Verlander, passing his previous best of 19, which he set in 2009. He is the first Tigers 20-game winner since Bill Gullickson in 1991, and it marks the 44th time in Tigers history that a pitcher has reached 20 wins in a season.

Verlander won his 20th game in the Tigers' 132nd game of the season, making him the fastest Detroit pitcher to 20 wins since Mickey Lolich got his 20th win in Game No. 131 of the 1972 season.

But while he has been dominant all year, Saturday was a battle for Verlander.

"Name a pitch, any pitch," Verlander said. "I had trouble finding consistency with anything. I've got some work to do in between this last start and this next one. I've always said, right after the start's done, I focus on the next one. So I know there's some things I've got to get fixed, and that starts tomorrow. Tonight's a different story."

Verlander got out of a jam in the first, stranding the bases loaded before cruising through the next three innings.

He then surrendered back-to-back homers to lead off the fifth and allowed two more runs on a Luke Hughes double in the sixth, putting win No. 20 in doubt.

"We were battling pretty hard there," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "We made him throw a lot of pitches in the ballgame, and pitch count was up. But that tells you a bit about him. He's a warrior. His team picked him up and got him runs late. ... It just tells you a little bit about the man. He's pretty good."

Verlander got the win thanks to a pair of Tigers runs to break the tie in the seventh. He finished with four runs allowed on eight hits over six-plus innings, with three walks against six strikeouts. Verlander tossed 76 of his 120 pitches for strikes.

It was the fourth time this season Verlander allowed four runs or more, and the first since July 26 against the White Sox. Six innings also matched Verlander's shortest outing of the season.

"It wasn't a good day, but we won," Verlander said. "I battled. I'd like to say I kept us in the game, but I made it a game. Our guys jumped out to an early lead, and those guys battled back and came right roaring back. We kept the momentum on our side by going right back out there and scoring a couple of runs, which is huge."

The Tigers gave Verlander an early lead with a pair of solo home runs in the second by Miguel Cabrera and Alex Avila, and it looked, for a while, to be all Verlander needed. Detroit added two runs in the fifth -- when Ryan Raburn hit an RBI double and scored on Austin Jackson's single -- but the four-run lead was gone two innings later.

Detroit scraped together three singles, a sacrifice bunt and a walk in the seventh to plate a pair and knock Twins starter Carl Pavano out of the game. Pavano allowed six runs (five earned) on nine hits with a walk and four strikeouts.

"I think it speaks to this team," Verlander said. "We really battled today, it was not an easy win. It could've been, it wasn't.

"It's just another example of why I am where I am. It's mostly to do with the 24 other guys on this roster."

Former Twins left fielder Delmon Young picked up two more hits against his former club, including the go-ahead RBI single in the seventh.

With the 2-for-4 performance, Young is batting .409 (9-for-22) with six RBIs in five games against the Twins since the Aug. 15 trade that sent him to the Tigers.

"Runners in scoring position, I like to be up there, especially when it comes down to late in the ballgames," Young said. "Bear down and try to get a lead, or extend a lead or tie a ballgame up." Comments