In his last start, Detroit's Rick Porcello showed he can reverse a trend against a team that gave him trouble last year. Friday, as the Tigers and Twins begin their weekend series at Target Field, Porcello will have to show he can do it against another club.
Facing the Angels a year to the day after a disastrous nine-run first inning against Los Angeles, Porcello earned the win on April 20. Against Minnesota last season, Porcello was 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA.
With just two games separating Detroit, the American League Central's first-place team, from last place, the three games in Minneapolis carry a little extra weight. This is especially true for the Twins, who are eager to prove they can hang around for more than just a month.
"In my opinion, it's really too early to tell how [the race] is going to go," Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson said. "Every time we're playing somebody in our division, it's going to be a tough game."
Detroit is coming off one of its longest homestands of the season, and Minnesota begins one of its longest on Friday. The Twins' improvement so far is mostly due to their success at the plate, which comes as something of a surprise to manager Ron Gardenhire.
"We've come out swinging, and in Spring Training we didn't hit much," Gardenhire said. "So we've been swinging better than I thought we would. Our starting pitching has been a little suspect, but we know they're pretty good and had a pretty good run the second time through. I like the way these guys go about their business."
The onus will be on righty Kevin Correia on Friday to try and improve upon the Twins' starting pitching. Correia allowed four earned runs on nine hits in six innings his last time out, though the defense was unimpressive behind him.
"We're a starting pitching staff that pitches to contact," Correia said. "We don't have a guy on this team that's going to strike out 200 guys in a season. We pride ourselves on making plays. We've done that in the past."
In six career starts against Detroit, Correia is 1-3 with a 2.75 ERA.
Tigers: Shift strategies begin to evolve
For every piece of strategy in baseball, there's a counteraction to try to address it. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who brought the increased use of infield shifts to Detroit, expects the same to happen to shifting.
In fact, he has talked with his left-handed-hitting catcher, Alex Avila, about doing just that to the shifts he has encountered.
"I think it's happening so often, there's going to be a little bit of a bounceback where players start bunting and getting on base," Ausmus said. "Then you're going to see shifts more based on counts or the score. We've talked about it with Alex."
Avila said the same earlier in the week, and he squared around to bunt against the White Sox infield shift in an at-bat Wednesday.
Twins: Colabello an RBI machine in April
Chris Colabello has driven in 26 runs entering Friday, which ranks second in the Majors behind Miami's Giancarlo Stanton. Colabello is one of the biggest reasons the Twins are currently third in baseball in runs scored.
Colabello deflected praise when asked about his accomplishments, which include tying Kirby Puckett's club record for most RBIs in April.
"RBIs are a product of opportunity," Colabello said. "I'm thankful to the coaching staff for believing in me enough to put me in the middle of this order and for the guys in front of me being on base. My job is to knock in runs, and it just so happens I've had a few of them this month."
• The Tigers won the season series over the Twins in 2013, 11-8.
• Miguel Cabrera had his fourth multihit game of the season for Detroit on Thursday, while Bryan Holaday had the fourth multihit game of his career.
• Minnesota claimed outfielder Kenny Wilson off waivers from Toronto on Thursday. He'll report to Double-A New Britain.
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.