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DET@TB: Verlander fans eight over six innings

It's never an easy task to record a hit off Justin Verlander.

The now six-time All-Star has recorded a whopping 121 strikeouts this season, second only the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg with 122.

While the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and MVP has tossed two no-hitters in his career, if there's one player who stands a chance, it's another former AL MVP -- the Twins' Joe Mauer.

Mauer has the highest batting average (.392) and on-base percentage (.492) of any Major Leaguer with at least 30 at-bats against Verlander.

Mauer also has the fifth most at-bats against Verlander, going 20-for-51 lifetime against him with three doubles, three home runs and nine RBIs.

No other hitter in that top five has an average above .279.

Despite the success Mauer as had off Verlander, the Tigers hurler holds a 10-7 record with a 3.52 ERA in 21 career starts against the Twins.

"There was a time where we used to irritate him by bunting and stuff, and we used to try to," said Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. "Our thought was we could rattle him a little bit. You can't rattle him anymore. He just doesn't get rattled. He's matured. He's confident. His stuff's always been great, but he doesn't get irritated anymore; he just throws harder and makes it break more. He's just matured as a person and a player and he has no fear. Little things like that don't affect him anymore."

Verlander will try to shake off his most recent outing, a 4-2 loss to the Rays on Friday.

He allowed four runs on six hits in six innings of work, giving up a season-high three home runs.

Verlander had only allowed seven home runs all season prior to his outing Friday, and hadn't given up three long balls in a game since April 22, 2011.

"He just seemed out of sync," Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said after the game. "Usually, he's really good with command, and his ball just kind of leaked back to the middle of the plate. Usually, his four-seamer away stays away, and they just kept coming back to the plate. When that happens, it tends to find the barrel."

Mauer, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games Tuesday, will work behind Twins starter Brian Duensing, who is making just his third start of the season.

Duensing allowed three runs on eight hits with one strikeout through four-plus innings against Kansas City on Friday.

He was on a 65-70 pitch limit as he continues to stretch out after starting the year in the bullpen.

"I'm frustrated, to be honest -- a lot more negatives than positives in that start," said Duensing, who lasted just three innings in his first start of the season at Cincinnati. "Some of the positives were that I lasted an inning longer, the ball felt good out of [my] hand and I made some good pitches. The negatives were I left the ball up, I was kind of misfiring and all the runs scoring. It's kind of a step forward but not very far."

Tigers: Scherzer on track for Sunday start
The Tigers sent Duane Below to the mound for his first start of the season to replace Max Scherzer, who was nursing a left hamstring injury but expects to make his next turn in the rotation.

Below lasted just 2 2/3 innings, giving up five runs (one earned) on five hits.

The plan is for Scherzer to go through his routine Wednesday as if he pitched Tuesday, so he will remain on schedule to pitch Sunday.

Twins: Burnett shining in bullpen
While the Twins have struggled all year to solidify their starting rotation, sending 11 different starters to the mound in 2012, they've can use every solid arm they can get from the bullpen.

Alex Burnett has been just that, tossing 16 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to May 23. He has allowed four hits and four walks during that stretch, recording seven strikeouts.

On the season, Burnett has a 1.77 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 11 walks through 40 2/3 innings. He recorded a 5.51 ERA in 50 2/3 innings in 2011.

Worth noting
• With the 6-4 win Monday night, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire earned his 900th win as a manager, becoming just the second Twins manager to reach the milestone.

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