(SportsNetwork.com) - Justin Verlander tries to win his fifth consecutive decision on Friday when the Detroit Tigers begin a three-game series versus the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park.
Verlander flirted with a no-hitter his last time out on Sunday in Kansas City, as the Royals didn't touch him until the sixth inning. Verlander ended the game by allowing three runs and four hits in seven innings to run his record to 4-1 to go along with a 2.68 ERA.
"(Against Kansas City), his fastball was anywhere from 89 to 96-97 (mph)," catcher Alex Avila said. "That's a lot to cover for a hitter, plus he has the offspeed stuff and he knows how to pitch."
Verlander's run should continue on Friday, as he has won nine consecutive decisions against the Twins. In fact, he hasn't lost in the series since April 27, 2010 and has a 2.06 ERA in his last 12 matchups and 93 strikeouts in 83 innings.
His 12 consecutive starts without a loss against Minnesota trails only John Danks' 14 versus Kansas City among the MLB's active streaks against one team.
Verlander will be trying to help Detroit bounce back after it had its eight- game winning streak stopped Thursday with a 6-2 loss to Houston.
Detroit starter Drew Smyly (2-2) surrendered three runs on five hits and three walks over 5 1/3 frames to absorb the loss. Victor Martinez registered three hits, including a solo homer, in the setback.
"We won the series," third baseman Nick Castellanos said. "Obviously, we want to win every game we play, but it's not like we lost confidence now."
Minnesota, meanwhile, dropped the final three games in its series with Cleveland, falling to the Tribe, 9-4, in Thursday's finale at Progressive Field. Josmil Pinto had two hits and Chris Colabello drove in a pair for the Twins, who have dropped seven of 10.
Minnesota was again without first baseman Joe Mauer, who missed his fourth consecutive game with a back issue. He's not expected to play on Friday but manager Ron Gardenhire hopes to have him at some point this weekend.
"(Mauer is) better," Gardenhire said. "We're still looking at the end of this weekend. He believes he'll be able to play by Friday or Saturday, but I think Saturday might be more realistic."
The Twins will hand the ball to righty Phil Hughes on Friday, as he tries to win a fourth consecutive start. Hughes improved to 3-1 on Sunday against Baltimore, as he surrendered a pair of runs in 6 1/3 innings to lower his ERA to 4.72.
"I certainly feel like I'm throwing the ball better than I was at the beginning of the year," Hughes said. "I can still be better, but I'd like to keep it going."
Hughes beat the Tigers two starts ago, but is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last three appearances at Comerica Park.
The Tigers split a two-game set with the Twins earlier this season, but won 11 of the 19 matchups a year ago.