Tigers Could Sweep

With their two top offensive players from last season - and even their manager - banged up, times are tough for the Minnesota Twins.

One night after breaking his nose, reigning league MVP Justin Morneau hopes to play Sunday as the Twins try to avoid a three-game sweep at home against the AL Central rival Detroit Tigers.

Oddsmakers have made Detroit -115 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for todays game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Our public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Minnesota +105 (View MLB Bet Percentages).

Minnesota (17-19) has dropped four straight games and eight of 10 to fall into fourth place, 6 1/2 games behind division-leading Detroit (23-12).

Catcher Joe Mauer, who led the majors with a .347 batting average last season and was hitting a team-high .353 in 2007, is on the disabled list with a strained left quadriceps muscle and cannot return until at least next Sunday. The Twins are averaging just 2.9 runs in seven games since he suffered the injury.

Meanwhile, manager Ron Gardenhire missed the first two games of this series after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Friday on his left knee. Third base coach Scott Ullger has been in charge for the last two games but Gardenhire plans to be back in the dugout Sunday night.

Making matters even worse for the Twins, Morneau broke his nose in the eighth inning of Saturday's 8-2 defeat when an errant relay throw from Minnesota third baseman Nick Punto bounced off the Metrodome turf and hit Morneau in the face.

"Just tops it all out,'' said Morneau, who is listed as day-to-day but expects to play in the series finale.

Morneau and the Twins are trying to avoid their longest losing streak since last May 14-18 - a skid which concluded with a three-game sweep at Detroit and dropped them to 17-24. However, Minnesota recovered from that slow start and finished 96-66 to edge the Tigers by one game for the division title.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland isn't counting out the Twins this time, either.

"They are a real good club, and they will break out of it sooner than a not-so-good club,'' he said. "That's the way it happens.''

Leyland's Tigers, meanwhile, have won three straight and 11 of 12 since an 11-3 loss to the Twins on April 28 in Detroit. After posting a .251 team batting average in April, they are hitting a major league-best .331 in May.

"Hitters are going to hit,'' said left fielder Craig Monroe, who went 3-for-4 with his fifth homer of the season Saturday. "Sometimes it takes you the first month, sometimes it takes you two months, but if you continue to grind out your at-bats, you get to the numbers that you put up.''

This was originally Jeremy Bonderman's day to start for the Tigers, but he is skipping his turn due to a cut on the middle finger of his pitching hand. In his place, right-hander Virgil Vasquez will make his major league debut.

Vasquez is 4-2 with a team-best 2.88 ERA in seven starts this season for Triple-A Toledo.

He will oppose Boof Bonser (0-1, 3.96 ERA), who has yielded just two total earned runs over his last three starts but has yet to record a win. The right-hander pitched seven innings Tuesday, yielding four runs - one earned - and eight hits while striking out seven, but did not factor in Minnesota's 10-inning, 7-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Bonser won his only career start against Detroit, a 2-1 victory last Sept. 9 at the Metrodome in which he limited the Tigers to one run and five hits in seven innings.

by: Michael Cash - thespread.com – Email Us

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