MINNEAPOLIS, MN РJhonny Peralta is a big reason why the Detroit Tigers lead the AL Central and continue to dominate the Minnesota Twins.

Coming off a pair of three-hit games, the All-Star shortstop looks for another big performance while trying to help the Tigers to a 12th consecutive victory over the Twins on Saturday at Target Field.

After going 3 for 4 with a homer and three RBIs in Thursday’s 6-2 win over Minnesota, Peralta drove in four runs and was a triple shy of the cycle in Detroit’s 8-2 victory Friday. Peralta is batting .524 (11 for 21) with eight RBIs the last six games for the Tigers (53-46), who have won four of five and own a 1 1/2-game lead over Cleveland in the Central.

“He’s in the midst of a real good year,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s got a lot of confidence.”

Peralta has been exceptional against the Twins, batting .413 with seven homers and 23 RBIs in 21 games since the start of last season. He’s hit six of those homers and driven in 19 during the Tigers’ franchise-high 11-game winning streak over the Twins.

Detroit has outscored Minnesota 43-22 during five straight wins at Target Field. The fourth-place Twins (46-53) are seven games back of the Tigers.

“We’ve put ourselves down two games to none in this series,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “We’ve got to figure out a way to get one (Saturday) and go from there.”

The Tigers could face a challenge against scheduled Minnesota starter Scott Baker (7-5, 3.01 ERA), who has allowed one earned run and struck out 35 over 36 1-3 innings while going 4-0 in his last five starts at Target Field.

The right-hander takes the mound for the first time since he yielded an unearned run over five innings of a 3-2 win over Tampa Bay on July 5 when he left due to a strained elbow that sent him to the DL. After a successful bullpen session Wednesday, Baker appears ready to return.

“I guess you get to the point where you don’t think about it, and that’s kind of the point where you want to be,” Baker told the Twins’ official website. “That’s always a good feeling. I should be good to go.”

Baker, 0-1 with a 7.84 ERA in two starts versus Detroit in 2011, allowed five runs and a career-high five walks in 4 1-3 innings and did not factor in the decision of a 9-7 loss to the Tigers at home on May 11.

While Peralta is a lifetime .280 hitter with two homers versus Baker, teammates Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez are batting a combined .387 with six homers against him.

Detroit’s Brad Penny (7-6, 4.47) has not been great his last two starts but will try for a third consecutive victory when he takes the ball Saturday.

Penny went 0-1 with a 2.29 in his three previous starts before posting a 4.85 ERA while winning his last two. The right-hander surrendered three runs in 6 2-3 innings of a 4-3 win over Chicago on Sunday.

He’s 2-0 with a 5.79 ERA in four starts against the Twins, but allowed five runs and 10 hits in six innings and did not receive a decision in a 6-5 home win over Minnesota on May 30.

Jim Thome has one of his 596 career homers in 15 at-bats against Penny.
Copyright 2011 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.


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