The Minnesota Twins have created some distance in the American League Central race in recent days
Minnesota has won four straight games, including a three-game sweep of Arizona, to extend its division lead to 4 1/2 games over second-place Cleveland. The Twins now go on the road for a four-game series against the host Detroit Tigers, which begins on Monday night
The Twins' latest win was a thriller. They trailed 3-2 going into the bottom of the ninth on Sunday. Max Kepler tied it with a homer and Matt Wallner won it with a two-run shot
"To finish the series sweep off with a walk-off homer is pretty cool," Wallner said in a postgame interview
Pablo Lopez (6-6, 4.01 ERA) is scheduled to start the series opener for Minnesota. Lopez has been sharp in his last two starts. He limited Seattle to two runs in seven innings while recording eight strikeouts on July 25
In his most recent outing last Tuesday, Lopez held St. Louis to one run in six innings and didn't issue a walk. Lopez's outing helped the Twins end a five-game losing streak
"You want to set the tone in the first game of the series," the right-hander said. "I tried to execute quality pitches from the first inning.
Lopez lost his lone start against Detroit this season, but he pitched well enough to win. He gave up three runs in six innings while recording 10 strikeouts on June 24
He'll be opposed by left-hander Joey Wentz (2-9, 6.37), who is back in the Tigers' rotation since Michael Lorenzen was traded to Philadelphia. Wentz has struggled as a starter, as opponents have recorded a .888 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against him in those outings
Wentz has been much better in relief, including his last outing after he was recalled from Triple-A Toledo. He tossed 4 2/3 scoreless innings at Miami on July 29
"I think he controlled his emotions and he controlled his reaction to misfires," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. "I think he used his pitches well. The curveball was pretty good. He didn't get into patterns. There's a lot of growth we're seeing with him and we're going to keep challenging him.
Wentz said he used his time in the minors to work on his mechanics and regain his confidence
"Anytime you get sent down people think it's these massive changes," Wentz said. "For me it was just simplifying some things I was doing and trying not to have as many poor misses in my stuff. It's more just, take a break, clear my head and go play baseball for a little bit.
Wentz has lost two starts to Minnesota this season, though one of them counted as a quality outing. He gave up two runs and two hits in six innings while striking out a season-high nine batters on June 17, but Detroit was blanked
The Tigers could use a quality outing from their starting pitcher considering they have lost eight of their last 11 games, including a 10-6 decision to Tampa Bay on Sunday
Infielder Andy Ibanez got thrown out on the basepaths twice and made an error that led to two unearned runs
"I like that we fought to the end, but we made too many mistakes to be encouraged," Hinch said
--Field Level Medi