DETROIT — Justin Verlander allowed one run over 7 2-3 innings to become baseball's first 18-game winner, and the Detroit Tigers breezed to an easy 7-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday night.
Verlander (18-5) labored through a 29-pitch first inning but settled down after that, allowing seven hits in another impressive outing. He struck out eight to surpass 200 on the year, walked one and lowered his ERA to 2.31.
Miguel Cabrera drove in three runs for the Tigers, and Ramon Santiago hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot in the sixth.
Nick Blackburn (7-10) allowed five runs and 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Detroit extended its lead in the AL Central to 2½ games over the Cleveland Indians, who were still playing when the Tigers wrapped up their victory.
Minnesota slugger Jim Thome was out of the starting lineup Tuesday, one night after hitting two home runs to reach 600 for his career. He did pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth, drawing a standing ovation from the Detroit crowd. That reception then morphed almost seamlessly into a celebration when Thome struck out to end the game.
Thome's teammates had little success against Verlander. The Twins put two men on in the first, but Justin Morneau hit a popup and Jason Kubel struck out to end the threat.
Verlander's 200th strikeout of the season came in the sixth, when Morneau watched a breaking ball drop toward the outside corner, then slowly walked back to the dugout looking like he was about to roll his eyes.
Verlander struck out two more Twins to start the seventh and another two in the eighth, getting former MVP Joe Mauer swinging on a breaking ball that dropped wickedly as it reached the plate. Morneau finally managed an RBI single that inning, chasing Verlander from the game. The tall right-hander received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd before he even left the mound, and he acknowledged the fans on his way to the dugout with a wave of his left hand.
Cabrera opened the scoring with a two-run single in the third, and the Tigers added three more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Victor Martinez, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta.
Avila and Austin Jackson both reached base four times for the Tigers. Brennan Boesch scored three runs.
Detroit's last eight wins had been by one run, but there wasn't much to sweat out on this night.
Santiago led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer that made it 6-0, and Cabrera, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games, added an RBI single.
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