Twins-Tigers Preview

DETROIT -- Justin Upton has established a reputation for being a streaky hitter. He's still waiting for one of those big hot streaks to come along in a Detroit Tigers uniform.

Upton, who signed a six-year, $132 million contract as a free agent during the offseason, has endured arguably the toughest offensive year of his career. He has shown signs recently of breaking out, including a home run against Minnesota on Monday that turned out to be a game-winner in a 1-0 shutout.

He nearly had another Tuesday, but his 415-foot shot was caught at the center field wall. Upton did have a single, nudging his season average to .237.

Upton has 10 homers in 88 games. He has averaged 27.3 homers in the last three seasons, so a power binge during the second half could be on the horizon.

"History says it's a possibility," Upton said. "When those things happen, you never know they're coming, so I don't anticipate it or search for it. I go out every day and compete. That's all I can do."

He'll get another shot on Wednesday, when the Tigers play the finale of the three-game against Minnesota. The Twins collected a 6-2 victory on Tuesday.

If the pressure of living up to a big contract has weighed down Upton, he hasn't felt it.

"Coming in here and going into spring training, I went about my business the way I've always done," he said. "Things haven't worked out. It's a new league and I'm trying to find my way. I feel like day in and day out I've tried to do things to help the ballclub. At the end of the day, I can hang my hat on that."

Justin Verlander, Detroit's starter for Wednesday's matinee, has been hanging up some impressive stats lately. He has won seven of his last nine decisions, including his first start after the All-Star break when he struck out 10 Kansas City batters.

He'll be opposed by another veteran, Ervin Santana. He's pitched well of late, going 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his last five starts. The loss came in his last outing, when he gave up three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings to Cleveland and was struck in the left arm by a line drive.

Santana said Tuesday he's fine while pointing toward the bruised area.

"I have a lot of positive things from the last few outings," said Santana, who is 3-8 with a 4.12 ERA. "I threw a lot of strikes and kept the ball down for the most part."

He has been sharp historically against Detroit, going 9-3 with a 3.27 ERA in 16 career starts.

"I know they're a very aggressive team," he said. "I just try to keep the ball down because if you miss, you know where it's going to go. You have to be careful from the leadoff (man) to the ninth."

Manager Paul Molitor is trying to be more aggressive to spark his team's often punchless offense. The Twins scored eight runs in their first four games after the break before Tuesday's six-run outburst.

"You look for it, but you don't want to force it," Molitor said. "I'm trying to put people in motion. We still have some guys who can steal bases, but you have to have the right customers. I'd like to jump-start it if I can."

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