And it's not just because the Twins trail Oliver's Tigers by four games in the American League Central standings.
For Oliver, a 22-year-old left-hander making his fourth career start, Sunday marks a critical day in his maturation as a Major League pitcher.
The answers to the following questions figure to play a key role in Sunday's outcome. What adjustments has Oliver made since opposing the Twins in a June 30 loss at Target Field? What adjustments have the Twins made since Oliver limited them to two earned runs (five total) over six innings that afternoon in Minneapolis?
"It's a pretty big game," Oliver said. "Facing them again, I have a better idea of what I want to do going through that lineup. I know how aggressive they are and where to pitch them in certain situations.
"At the same time, you have to not get caught up in it. I have to stick to the same routine that I've always been in."
Having Miguel Cabrera on his side doesn't hurt.
Detroit's All-Star first baseman enters Sunday riding a career-best 18-game hitting streak. He is batting .403 (27-for-67) with 16 runs, seven doubles, three home runs and 17 RBIs during the binge.
Recent history suggests that Cabrera has a decent chance to extend his streak Sunday. The 27-year-old slugger's past 31 games against Minnesota have produced the following numbers: .341 average (42-for-123), nine doubles, 11 homers and 29 RBIs.
Twins right-hander Carl Pavano, 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA in seven career starts against the Tigers, draws the unenviable task of dousing Cabrera's scorching bat. The 34-year-old veteran had tossed five consecutive quality starts prior to Tuesday, when he yielded six runs on eight hits over 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Blue Jays.
"He just didn't make enough pitches," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's been really good for us. That's why you have to give him some slack."
Twins: Young on a hot streak
Left fielder Delmon Young is hitting .347 (43-for-124) with 11 doubles, five homers and 31 RBIs in 34 games since June 3. ... Minnesota pitchers have walked 182 batters this season.
Tigers: Home cooking at Comerica
Detroit is 17-2 at Comerica Park since June 2. ... Closer Jose Valverde has converted each of his past 19 save opportunities. He has held opponents scoreless in 36 of his 39 outings in 2010. ... Outfielder Brennan Boesch has hit safely in 16 of his past 19 home games.
Minnesota designated hitter Jim Thome's 63 career homers against Detroit rank fourth all-time against the Tigers. ... Since joining the Tigers in 2005, right fielder Magglio Ordonez is batting .348 (113-for-325) with 28 doubles, 17 homers and 77 RBIs in 87 games against the Twins. ... Detroit owns a 1,037-964-17 all-time record against Minnesota.
Sun, 7/11 1:05 PM ET
Pavano provides masterful outing
Carl Pavano retired the first 13 Detroit batters before Brennan Boesch's infield single. The right-hander allowed three runs on six hits over 7 2/3 innings and improved to 5-0 in his last seven starts.
|Hudson, O, 2B||4||1||1||0||1||0||1||.281|
|Young, D, LF||4||1||2||0||0||0||2||.305|
|Valencia, D, 3B||4||0||1||1||0||0||4||.310|
2B: Young, D (25, Oliver, A), Cuddyer (20, Bonine), Valencia, D (2, Thomas, B).
TB: Cuddyer 3; Valencia, D 2; Thome; Young, D 3; Hudson, O; Punto; Kubel 2.
RBI: Thome (29), Kubel (49), Cuddyer 2 (40), Valencia, D (3), Butera (5).
2-out RBI: Kubel; Cuddyer 2.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Valencia, D 2; Span; Kubel.
Team RISP: 4-for-14.
Team LOB: 9.
CS: Punto (1, 2nd base by Oliver, A/Avila).
2B: Cabrera, M (27, Pavano), Santiago, R (6, Pavano).
TB: Boesch; Cabrera, M 2; Damon 2; Santiago, R 2; Ordonez.
RBI: Cabrera, M (77), Boesch (49), Damon (28).
2-out RBI: Damon.
Runners left in scoring position, 2 out: Jackson, A; Inge.
Team RISP: 2-for-9.
Team LOB: 4.
SB: Inge (1, 2nd base off Pavano/Butera).
DP: 2 (Santiago, R-Guillen-Cabrera, M, Avila-Guillen-Cabrera, M-Santiago, R).
WP: Oliver, A.
IBB: Cuddyer (by Oliver, A), Kubel (by Bonine).
HBP: Young, D (by Oliver, A).
Pitches-strikes: Pavano 104-79, Guerrier 1-1, Rauch 11-5, Oliver, A 88-45, Bonine 41-25, Thomas, B 33-20.
Groundouts-flyouts: Pavano 8-8, Guerrier 1-0, Rauch 0-1, Oliver, A 4-1, Bonine 3-3, Thomas, B 1-3.
Batters faced: Pavano 29, Guerrier 1, Rauch 4, Oliver, A 22, Bonine 10, Thomas, B 10.
Inherited runners-scored: Guerrier 1-0, Bonine 2-2, Thomas, B 1-1.
Umpires: HP: Eric Cooper. 1B: Bill Miller. 2B: Mike Reilly. 3B: Chad Fairchild.
Weather: 83 degrees, sunny.
Wind: 2 mph, R to L.
Venue: Comerica Park.
July 11, 2010
Compiled by MLB Advanced Media