By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
(AP) -- Short outings by starters have been the norm in this series between the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins with the unsurprising exception of All-Star Justin Verlander.
Rick Porcello and Scott Diamond have provided length and effectiveness in each of their last two outings.
Those pitchers will each be in search of a third straight victory in Thursday's four-game series finale at Comerica Park.
Verlander is the only starter to last through the fifth inning in this series as he pitched a four-hitter for his fifth complete game Wednesday in a 5-1 victory that ended the Twins' season-high five-game win streak. Detroit (40-42) got stints of four innings from Doug Fister and 2 2-3 from Duane Below in dropping the first two games of this set.
"I watch what is going on with our team, and I knew our bullpen was beat up," Verlander said. "I knew I needed to give us at least seven or eight innings."
Minnesota (35-46), which fell to 4-1 at Comerica this season, has fared worse with its starters. Liam Hendriks lasted four-plus innings, Nick Blackburn four and Brian Duensing 4 1-3 on Wednesday before he exited with a bruised left ankle.
Both bullpens could get a break Thursday.
Porcello (6-5, 4.35 ERA) has yielded one run over 13 innings in back-to-back wins while Diamond (7-3, 2.63) has given up five over 16 in his two.
Porcello turned in his first scoreless effort of the season Saturday at Tampa Bay, allowing four hits with no walks over seven innings.
"It's good to get on a little bit of a roll, but I want to keep it going," he said.
The right-hander is 6-4 with a 3.06 ERA in 14 starts against Minnesota, with a 4.50 ERA and no decisions in two this year.
Porcello has had trouble with Denard Span (9 for 26), Jamey Carroll (6 for 15) and Ben Revere (6 for 16), but not with Joe Mauer (5 for 22) or Justin Morneau (3 for 21).
Diamond enters after surrendering two runs over eight innings Saturday in a 7-2 win over Kansas City.
"I was feeling confident earlier, this is just icing on the cake I guess," Diamond said. "I'm pretty happy to be able to just keep going out."
The left-hander went 0-2 with a 3.65 ERA in two starts against Detroit last year, with Miguel Cabrera going 3 for 5 against him.
Cabrera homered twice and drove in three runs Wednesday. He's 13 for 30 with three homers and 13 RBIs against the Twins this year.
"I think Cabrera saw two fastballs all day, and one went over the center-field fence and the other went over the right-field fence," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That's not smart pitching."
Both teams' center fielders and leadoff hitters have fared well in the season series. Span is 10 for 27 while the Tigers' Austin Jackson, batting .413 with 14 runs scored during an 11-game hit streak, is 7 for 14.
Updated July 5, 2012