Kubel's single ends Verlander's day, boosts Twins to win

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Metrodome's tricky, graying roof got another chance to torment the visiting team by gobbling up a routine fly ball.

Don Kelly and the Detroit Tigers were the latest victims of the deception, and the Minnesota Twins cut their AL Central lead to two games in the process.

Orlando Cabrera's only-in-the-dome double fueled the eighth-inning rally by the surging Twins, and Jason Kubel's two-run single with the bases loaded finished Justin Verlander in a 6-2 victory over the Tigers on Saturday.

"I think this team always knows in this dome, especially with the amount of fans here, if we just get a little bit of momentum going that we will break through and make something happen," said Denard Span, whose one-out single in the eighth started the comeback against Verlander (16-9).

On the verge of becoming the second AL pitcher to 17 wins, Verlander got Cabrera to hit a high, medium-length fly ball down the left-field line. Kelly, who replaced Carlos Guillen for defense the inning before, misjudged it and it skipped just under his glove.

Cabrera clapped his hands hard and pumped his arms after arriving at second, and the stadium -- which will host the Twins for only four more regular-season games before they move across downtown to open-air Target Field -- erupted in celebration.

"Once it got above the lights, I lost it," Kelly said. "I had no clue where it was. Obviously, I didn't pick it back up until it was really late."

Afternoon games, when the sun brightens the baseball-colored, Teflon-coated ceiling, are the toughest for outfielders. The lights are shining toward the left fielder's eyes, too, adding another challenge.

"That's the unfortunate part about the dome. It does play a part in the ballgame," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We've seen it a lot of times. That's why I think people hate coming in here."

Unfair? They can't care. The Twins have won six straight and are four games above the .500 mark, both season highs.

"We've played like a .500 team for a long enough time," Gardenhire said. "Right now we're finally starting to put a few things together."

Joe Mauer was intentionally walked after Cabrera's hit, and then Kubel came through with a bloop that Kelly charged but couldn't reach. Michael Cuddyer then met reliever Brandon Lyon with a three-run homer to break the game open.

This was the largest crowd, 43,338, here since opening day.

"You can just feel it in the fans that they want something special," Span said.

Carl Pavano pitched through 11 hits and managed to limit the Tigers to two runs over seven innings, retiring six straight after an inning-ending, double-play grounder by Gerald Laird with the bases loaded in the fifth. Jesse Crain (6-4) threw a scoreless eighth for the victory.

Manager Jim Leyland was more concerned about the lagging offense than the ball Kelly lost or the way the pitching fell apart in the eighth. The Tigers left nine men on base.

"If we don't start getting some big hits and knocking some people in and hitting some in the gap with men on, we'll have problems," Leyland said. "But no, I'm not worried about it. It is what it is. That's why you play the games."

Pavano beat Verlander 11-0 in Detroit on Aug. 8, his first start with the Twins after they acquired him from Cleveland, but the Tigers' flame-throwing ace sure made up for that flop.

Mauer homered into the upper deck in the first inning, but the Twins didn't come close to scoring again until the eighth. Verlander was still reaching 98 mph on the stadium radar in that last inning. He finished with six strikeouts to stretch his AL lead to 245, hardly consolation. Verlander struck out six and threw a season-high 128 pitches. He left the clubhouse without speaking to reporters.

Two weeks ago, the Twins were seven games back. The Tigers have been in first place since early May.

"We have nothing to lose right now. We have to keep going. All the pressure is on them," Cabrera said.

Game notes
Miguel Cabrera drove in a run and had three hits for the Tigers, raising his second-half average to .349. He has 12 homers and 42 RBIs in 60 games since the All-Star break. ... The Twins are 7-1 at home against the Tigers this year and went 7-2 here against the third-place Chicago White Sox. ... Pavano is 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA in five starts against the Tigers this season.